February 2010 Archives

Will closure of fresh pork line at Larsen's provide opportunity for other processors ? The Oak Island obsession : what keeps people searching for buried treasure ? Phone-in: Art Irwin on preventing "ice dams" and keeping your house warm

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

Hog Heaven or Hog Hell ? Despite the fact that large populations don't eat it for religious reasons, the most popular meat in the world is pork. Nevertheless, the pork industry in the Maritimes has seen an astounding decline over the past decade. And Thursday's news that Larsen's will stop processing fresh pork in Berwick, Nova Scotia raises more questions about where the pork on local meat counters will come from.
We spoke with Herman Berfelo, a hog producer who's president of Antigonish Abattoir - a Federally-Inspected meat processing facility owned by 15 farmers.
Monday on Maritime Noon, Phil Moscovitch will intoduce us to a farmer who's taken a different path to survival, selling chicken, pork, beef and lamb directly to consumers.

The Dreaded Ice Dam : It's been a typical Maritime winter. December was relatively forgiving, and we all cheered up with the late January thaw. Yes, there was that short-lived deep freeze, and next, we'll have the tricky month of March to deal with. The weather can swing from bitterly cold to weirdly mild, from wet snow to heavy rains and gusty winds - maybe all within 24 hours.  
Any under the right conditions, many of you will have gigantic icicles hanging from your rain gutters. That's the symptom of a heating and insulation problem.
Art Irwin explained the cause of what's known as "ice-damming" told us how to prevent it. He also answered questions about energy conservation and how to get the most out of your heating system

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Family's dream trip to the tropics evaporates when carrier goes out of business / Jail time for pharmaceutical industry figures ? Dissent over the Africville deal / Veterinarian Eric Carnegy on pet care

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

Some beach, somewhere, without Maritimers : The Southern Vacation has been one of the marketing success stories of the past few decades - especially among Maritimers seeking a break from the Canadian winter. Prices have been low enough that thrifty people with modest incomes could save up for a week on a warm beach in the Caribbean.
But it seems that every winter, just as travelers are packing their swimsuits, one of the providers leaves hundreds in the lurch.
Wednesday afternoon, Halifax-based Go Travel South announced that it was shutting down due to "economic circumstances."
Erica Wagner of Charlottetown was part of a family group of seven that got the bad news.

Not So Fast
: Wednesday's public apology by the Mayor of Halifax to the former residents of Africville and their descendants was heralded as long-overdue. The expropriation and demolition of homes and institutions in the late 60s has been a sore point for nearly 20,000 African-Nova Scotians - many of whom trace their roots to black refugees from the War of 1812.  
Aside from the apology, Mayor Peter Kelly announced $3 million for an interpretive centre, museum and a reproduction of the church that was razed. Ottawa contributed $250,000 to set up the Africville Heritage Trust, which would plan, construct and operate the buildings.
But yesterday's announcement wasn't embraced by everyone in the African-Nova Scotian community.
Reed "iZrEAL" Jones is poet, writer, spoken word artist and film director who was raised in Hammonds Plains, NS. He's posted his objections to the deal on Youtube, and we played some of his critique.
To see the video, click here.

The Pharmaceutical Balancing Act : Bringing new drugs to market is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that involves the difficult feat of generating private profit and serving the public good.
Lately, we've been playing excerpts from a public forum I moderated, which was sponsored by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs and Situating Science. Panelists and audience members explored the influence of commercial interests on health research in Canada.         
Producer Deborah Woolway read an email from Dr Brian Joseph of North Sydney about the lack of transparency and accountability in drug company dealings.
Then we played the final excerpt from the panel, which featured Jocelyn Downie of Dalhousie University's Faculties of Law and Medicine, Dr Chris MacDonald, associate professor in the Department of Philosophy at St Mary's University (who writes The Business Ethics Blog),  Dr Francoise Baylis of the Department of Bioethics at Dal, and Dr Don Weaver of Dal's School of Biomedical Engineering.

Shuffling Off the Mortal Coil : Regular exercise for the dog, keeping the cat away from the hazards of traffic and better nutrition is keeping pets alive longer.But like all living things, they eventually die. The illnesses of animals that may have been companions for 10 or 15 years are always difficult to bear. And the emotional attachment can lead pet owners into denial and expensive end-of-life treatments.
Veterinarian Eric Carnegy operates the Carnegy Animal Hospital in Halifax. He discussed those issues and answered questions about the health and care of your pet.

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Mayor of Halifax apologizes for the 1960s demolition of Africville / What the lack of ice in the Gulf of St Lawrence could mean for seals and hunters / Phone-in: "What's the most significant Olympics story for you ?"

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

A Long Time Coming : In Halifax today, an historic apology was made to the people of Africville and their descendents.
For decades, Africville had been hemmed in by undesirable land uses - from a city landfill to an abattoir - and finally, in the late  1960s, the houses and institutions of the close-knit African-Canadian community in the city's north end were bulldozed in the name of urban renewal.
It's hard to imagine the mindset of people living at a different point in our history. So before we heard today's apology, we played an excerpt from a 1962 CBC documentary called "Close-up: Figure Your Colour Against Mine".
On the weekend, the Africville Genealogy Society accepted an offer to create a new church and interpretive centre to commemorate the community in Halifax's north end. Tuesday night, February 24th, council approved the deal. About an hour before we went to air, Peter Kelly, the Mayor of the Halifax Regional Municipality made the official apology to members of the  community and their descendants.

Where's the Ice ? Researchers haven't seen ice conditions like this winter's since 1969. The lack of ice in the Gulf of St Lawrence and along the north side of Prince Edward Island will have major implications for seals that give birth on the floes. We spoke with Dr Mike Hammill, a research scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Mont-Joli, Québec who specializes in harp seals.

Olympian Ambitions
: In a culture where 8-year olds at the local rink can spit out slogans like "Impossible is nothing" and "Failure is not an option", we shouldn't be surprised that the Canadian Olympic Committee dreamed up "Own the Podium". Yes, it had more than a whiff of hubris - the kind of excessive ambition and pride that go before a tragic fall.
The phrase made many Canadians cringe inside, but "inside" is the operative word. When your nation adopts that brash a motto for Olympic planning, the people in charge clearly don't take kindly to any public quibbling - quibbling which might include questions like : is there any evidence that whoever spends the most money will get the most medals ? Does pure attitude translate into better results ?
The gap between medal expectations and reality is being documented in great detail, of course. But the saturation coverage - of events, of personalities, of family stories -  has given each of us a lot to react to over the past few weeks : superb efforts, heartbreaking disappointments, and even revelations that we could react so positively to obscure winter sports you don't see practiced anywhere in the Maritimes.
Dr Peter Donnelly is Director of the Centre for Sports Policy Studies at the University of Toronto. He's the author of an article entitled "Own the Podium or Rent It ?" which appeared in the magazine Policy Options a few months ago. CBC broadcaster John Hancock owns the morning sports slot.
We asked "What's the most significant Olympics story so far ?"

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Does Big Pharma have a moral obligation to fund independent medical research ? Could better transit revitalize the retail cores of Maritime cities ? Phone-in: Bob Bancroft on wildlife of the Maritimes

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

He Who Pays the Pipette : At a recent public forum sponsored by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs and Situating Science, panelists were challenged by an audience member who said he thought  the pharmaceutical industry did not follow the principal of "first, do no harm" - that its priority is continuing to maximise profits. To counter that tendency, he wondered about the possibility of so-called "Big Pharma" being persuaded to contribute 10% of profits to a fund to finance independent and unbiased health research.  
Panelists Don Weaver, Françoise Baylis, Chris MacDonald and Jocelyn Downie reponded.

Now Open : The discussion on Maritime Noon might have started with "Closed" signs, but it's certainly opened a debate.
Last week, we spoke with representatives from Moncton, Saint John & Halifax about need to restore vitality to traditional city centres.The slide in retail activity in once-bustling Maritime urban cores has led to empty storefronts. Revival strategies touched on everything from more housing and tax breaks to increased parking.
On Monday, we heard some of your ideas on what it would take to turn around the uptowns and downtowns in Maritime cities. A caller from Eastern Passage near Halifax said he didn't think any money should go towards that kind of urban renewal.
That sparked a quick response, and another idea from listener Freeman Dryden.

Consider This A Warning : I don't know whether to take it as a strange coincidence or some kind of warning that there are some topics we shouldn't explore on Maritime Noon.
The promo for today's phone-in mentioned bird feeders and the fact that hawks see them as a convenient means of congregating small birds. But this morning, I looked out the back window and saw my relatively new bird feeder smashed on the back deck.
Was it a hawk who thought his species had been smeared in the promo ? A raccoon who couldn't decide whether the feeder was a food dispenser or a poorly-designed swing ?
Well, the reason for the promo was the impending visit of biologist Bob Bancroft. He answered your questions about Wildlife of the Maritimes - and how bird feeders alter the backyard ecology.
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Teacher who survived sinking of the Concordia / Problems with oversight in drug research / Ideas for revitalizing the centres of Maritime cities ? Phone-in : Better Business Bureau of the Maritimes

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

Ashore and Alive : The 64 students and crew who survived the sinking of a Nova Scotia-based sailing ship are back on Canadian soil. Last week, their ship capsized off the coast of Brazil, leaving them stranded in life boats for nearly 40 hours.
The students were part of the Class Afloat program run by West Island College International of Lunenburg. Most had left Canada in September to spend a semester at sea.
Mark Sinker is one of the survivors. He's a history and english teacher.
He spoke with the CBC's Anne Marie Mediwake about his experience:

The Hollow Urban Core : Since World War 2, Maritime cities have seen residents and businesses move to the outskirts of town - with the incentives of lower municipal taxes, free mall parking and the cheap gas that fueled a commuter existence. For traditional city centres, the consequence of that shift has been a lot of shop windows sporting a "For Lease" sign.
The economic development group Downtown Moncton is holding roundtables to come up with ideas to reverse the increasing vacancy rate on its Main Street. And it's not alone : last week, several of the region's most concerned players joined us : the Executive Directors of Downtown Moncton & the Downtown Halifax Business Commission and the General Manager of Uptown Saint John. They talked about what it would take to transform the down-at-the-heels state of formerly bustling commercial districts.
Following that discussion, you called in with your observations.

Mind If I Take A Look ? When it comes to pharmaceutical research, who's overseeing whom ? We've been playing excerpts from a February 15th panel discussion on the influence of commercial interests in medical research, organized by Situating Science and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs. In today's podcast, Jocelyn Downie of Dalhousie University's Faculties of Law and Medicine and Françoise Baylis of Dal's Department of Bioethics responded to a question from an audience member.

Buyer, Go Online : Nobody wants to spend hard-earned money on a contracting job, used car or cellphone contract and then be disappointed with the results.
That's where the Better Business Bureau of the Maritimes comes in in. It provides free information on  how businesses are conducting themselves with their customers, suppliers and other businesses.
BBB's online service fielded more than 263,000 requests from Maritimers last year - more than double the number in 2008. Don MacKinnon, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of the Maritimes, and Jill Atkinson, the BBB's Director of Communications and provincial administrator for CAMVAP - the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan joined us to answer your questions about how to deal with a business that didn't provide satisfactory service.
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Recruiting memories from a new generation of veterans / Response to show on Snow Days / Phone-in: Dr Toby Mandelman on the care & health of your eyes

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

They're all gone now : Canada's last veteran of the First World War died on February 18th. John Babcock was never on the front lines, because the military found out that he had lied about his age to get in. But he was the last Canadian with memories of what it was like to serve in that war.
The Historica-Dominion Institute is trying to preserve the memories of remaining veterans - whether they served in World War 2, the Korean Conflict or the current war in Afghanistan. They arrange for veterans to speak with students and have questions-and-answer sessions with them through the Institute's "Memory Project".
On Sunday, February 20th, from noon until 3, they'll be soliciting memories by inviting veterans, legionnaires, and currently serving members and their families for lunch at the Stadacona Dining Room at CFB Halifax. The program will travel to Charlottetown in mid-April.
We spoke with Jeremy Diamond of the Historica-Dominion Institute.

Blizzard of emails :Thursday's phone-in with Dr James Gunn precipitated plenty of response. Dr Gunn is a former high school principal and school superintendent. He is also the author of  "School Storm Days in Nova Scotia", a discussion paper commissioned by the Department of Education and the province's school boards following last winter, in which there was a higher than average number of "snow days" (to read Dr Gunn's paper, click here ).
Carmen Klassen joined me to read your email responses.

When it comes to health, sunglasses aren't just a fashion statement. They're an important aid in keeping harmful ultraviolet radiation from affecting your eyes. And UV radiation doesn't take a winter break.
Dr. Toby Mandelman is an optometrist with the Bedford Eye Care Centre. She explained how to protect your eyes from UV radiation, and answered questions about the care & health of your eyes.

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PEI's untapped tourist market...in NB and NS / Confidentiality and pharmaceutical company-sponsored health research / Phone-in: Should teachers have to go to school to work on snow days ?

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

Can you turn neighbours into tourists ? Most of the tourists who visit Prince Edward Island are from the other two Maritime Provinces. But while many people from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick do visit the Island, there's a large number who don't. And of those who do, many don't make frequent returns. Collectively, that might point to a major, virtually untapped market for tourist dollars.
We spoke with Thom MacMillan, president of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I.

Funding and confidentiality : The health research community in Canada has been abuzz with controversy, ever since Ottawa appointed a vice-president of the drug company Pfizer to the governing council of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research - the body that decides how health research dollars are spent. And prior to that, Pfizer teamed up with the Canadian Medical Association for a program for continuing medical education. At about the same time, the corporation made the largest settlement for criminal fraud in the history of the United States - in part, for its activities in continuing medical education there.
Recently, I was invited to moderate a panel on the influence of commercial interests in medical research. It was organized by Situating Science and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs.
We've been presenting excerpts from that discussion. In today's, you'll hear from Dr Don Weaver of Dalhousie University's School of Biomedical Engineering and Jocelyn Downie who teaches in the Dalhousie University Faculties of Law and Medicine.
But we started with a question from an audience member...

Superstitious kids have many rituals to bring on "snow days", from wearing their pyjamas inside out to putting a spoon under their pillow. But what happens when they get their wish ?
When the school board makes the call in the wee hours that weather and road conditions aren't going to be safe enough for elementary schoolers to walk, or for buses to navigate unpaved rural routes ?
Well, last winter, the kids must have had their mojo working, because there was an unusually high number of snow days in all three Maritime Provinces in 2008-09.
Now the title itself can be a misnomer; school can be closed due to a heavy snowfall or drifting snow, but also because of freezing rain or black ice. But regardless of the reason, it was the large number of snow days that got people buzzing about several related issues - from the decision-making that goes into declaring a snow day to who is or isn't expected to show up at the workplace.
That buzz led to a discussion paper prepared for the School Boards and Department of Education in Nova Scotia. And one of the discussion points raised by author James Gunn was the tradition in some jurisdictions which allows teachers to stay home on snow days, even when conditions would allow them to go to school and meet with colleagues and when other school board employees are expected to report for work..
We were joined by the author of the report, James Gunn, and asked : "Should teachers have to go to school to work on snow days ?"
To read Mr Gunn's report, click here.
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The pharmaceutical industry and its influence on health research / Phone-in: Terry O'Reilly - host of the show - and now co-author of the book - entitled "The Age of Persuasion" on effective advertising

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

It's hard to think of a single aspect of health that doesn't present a knot of public and private interests. Even walking, the most basic of healthy activities, poses a question with commercial implications : "Should I  walk with or without shoes ?"
I'm not kidding. There are studies that say walking barefoot decreases osteoarthritis. But shoe manufacturers would point out the protection their footwear offers from cuts and abrasions that leave you vulnerable to infections & parasites.
On February 15th, I was invited to moderate a panel on the influence of commercial interests in medical research. It was organized by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs. Over the next week, we'll present excerpts from that discussion.
Today, you'll hear from three Dalhousie University professors : Dr Don Weaver of the School of Biomedical Engineering, Jocelyn Downie of the Faculties of Law and Medicine, and - first of all - Françoise Baylis of the Department of Bioethics.

Some whisper, some shout, some wave signs. But do you ever feel as if you're walking through life in the middle of a crowd of thousands of people desperately trying to get your attention ? It's as if their lives depended on it.
Well - their livelihoods do. Advertisers who fail to interest you in the product they're selling could be out of pocket or even out of a job.
Andt for you - the target of their attention - navigating through life becomes a matter of not being distracted by all those  flashy, loud or seductive come-ons.
So you record your shows, fast-forward past the ads, get the latest pop-up blocker, or just  develop tunnel vision. But that's the challenge for those attention-seekers, who'll continue to exist, adapt and evolve.
Terry O'Reilly is one of the people who seeks attention for his clients. And he's earned the attention of millions of Canadians with his weekly CBC Radio show - "The Age of Persuasion". He & his collaborator Mike Tennant have now produced a book of the same name, subtitled "How Marketing Ate Our Culture". Mr O'Reilly's studied the history of his industry - the visionaries, the turning points, and what it takes for an advertiser to cut through the noise and get your attention. We invited you to call him with your questions about advertising or to tell him why you think a certain ad got through to you.
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A whole new mindset : will a gaming facility, energy plant and additions to reserve lands transform a New Brunswick First Nation ? Phone-in: P3 - What are the pros and cons of public-private partnerships ?

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

Can a gambling facility be one of the pillars of a stable community ?
That's the hope of Metepenagiag's Chief, Noah Augustine.  
On February 12th, he announced that the First Nation had been the successful bidder for an Atlantic Lottery Corporation licence to establish a Coasters' gaming franchise in Douglastown on the Miramichi. It will feature 25 VLTs, high-stakes bingo, Pro-Line sports betting, video poker, a restaurant and entertainment centre.
Thanks to a revenue-sharing agreement with the province, Metepenagiag will retain 95% of provincial sales tax and 95% of the profits generated by the facility. About two acres of riverfront property will be converted into First Nations land.
But the gaming facility is only one of the pillars of an ambitious plan to make the 600-member community break what the chief calls "a mentality of dependence".
Chief Noah Augustine joined me in the studio for a wide-ranging interview on how he hopes to transform Metepenagiag.

P3 Or Not P3 ? We expect a lot from government : from schools and hospitals to courthouses, roads and bridges. And when it comes to those services and facilities, we want assurances that every penny is used effectively for the public good.
Public-private partnerships - or P3s - have been touted as one way to deliver on these wants  needs. The "private" part of the equation has been promoted as the agent for delivering cheaper, quicker & better results.
But  now that we have some experience of P3 projects in the Maritimes, what do we know about the promise, the reality and the way forward ?
Last weekend, about 40 unionized school employees and their supporters burned fake money outside Moncton North School, one of two P3 schools being built in New Brunswick. The provincial government will pay Brunswick Learning Centres $7 million a year for 30 years to construct, operate & maintain the schools, which will cost a combined $40 million to build.
In January, Nova Scotia's Auditor-General Jacques Lapointe noted what he called some "serious deficiencies" in the management of contracts involving the province, school boards and the developers of P3 schools. His annual report contained several recommendations, and we spoke with Mr Lapointe about them.(To read the A-G's report, click here .)
But there are also examples of P3 projects which have gone well.
Then we were joined by Danny Kavanagh, President of CUPE Nova Scotia. Maritime Noon also contacted the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships which promotes the P3 approach, but they were unable to provide anyone to participate in the phone-in.
Our question : What are the pros & cons of public-private partnerships ?
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How can Maritime cities get businesses back into the urban core ? Your thoughts on a Nova Scotia hostel's decision to fire its manager / Phone-in: Rosemary Beckett answers questions about antiques or collectibles

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

Once upon a time, a shopping trip in a Maritime city was a no-brainer : you simply headed to the centre of town and you could find everything you needed within a few blocks.
But the late 20th century saw shopping centres pop up on the edge of towns and many residents moving to the suburbs - nearer to that ring of malls (which acted more like retail walls).
You can see the consequences in the traditional city centres. The only thing displayed in many shop front windows is a "For Lease" sign. Once-bustling streets have taken on a decidedly down-at-the-heels look.
As a sign of the times,the economic development group Downtown Moncton has just announced three roundtables to come up with ideas to reverse the increasing vacancy rate on Main Street.
To get a better idea of what's challenging Maritime urban centres, had a discussion with Daniel Allain (Executive Director of Downtown Moncton), Paul MacKinnon (Executive Director of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission) and Peter Asimakos (General Manager of Uptown Saint John).

Friday on Maritime Noon, we brought you the story of the Wentworth hostel. Manager Jonathan Pederson and his wife were fired, for what the board said were cleanliness issues. Then the person who did the report on the hostel was given the manager's job.
That story prompted email and calls from people who heard the interviews.

Look but don't touch ? Some collectibles are only meant to be  admired; you take them down off the shelf only when its time to dust, or you want to appreciate their delicacy from very close range. But others make it to a ripe old age through decades of usefulness, and somehow enhanced by the kind of wear and tear that adds character.
Think about your grandmother's beautiful old wooden spoon - its edges worn down from rubbing against countless bowls. That heavy ball peen hammer that's no good for pulling nails, but can still drive them with the greatest of ease.
Rosemary Beckett returned to celebrate the most rugged and useful of our oldest possessions. She also answered your questions about antiques or collectibles.

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Manager of hostel in Wentworth cries foul over the way he was fired; president says firing was deserved / Phone-in: Anne Hunt and Sheree Fitch : What's the most memorable children's story or poem in your life ?

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

Hostel Hostility ? Disputes between employers and employees arise on a regular basis. Sometimes, they end with an unpleasant parting of ways.
When your place of work is also where you live, things get especially tricky. And when the person who wrote the report that got you fired then takes over your job, well, we're into a very difficult situation.
That appears to be the case with Jonathan Pederson and his wife, who manage Hostelling International's facility in Nova Scotia's Wentworth Valley.
Mr. Pederson leaves his job on Monday.
We spoke with him and with Diane Powell, the president of Hostelling International Maritimes, and a resident of Wentworth.

Your happy place : As busy grown-ups with our minds juggling a million details all day, it's hard to recall a time when we experienced utter contentment, warmth and peace.
But it's back there in most of our lives. Cuddled up next to a parent or an older brother or sister who's reading us a story. Or all alone with a picture book, with our eyes soaking up every colourful detail.Or, when we're slightly older and able to read, under the covers with a chapter book, immersed in lives and places different from anything we've yet experienced.
The intersection of our young imaginations with those of gifted writers and illustrators is a wonderful personal landmark.
Our guests were Anne Hunt & Sheree Fitch. They're  the recipients of the 2009-2010 Wallace Fellowship. They've used it to immerse themselves in the Eileen Wallace Collection at UNB Fredericton, which contains a large number of Atlantic Canadian books for children.
Our question : What's the most memorable children's story or poem in your life ?
To enter Portolan - developed by the Eileen Wallace Children's Literature Collection at UNB - and to see its annotated bibliography of Atlantic Canadian Children's Literature, click here .

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MD's insight leads to better care in nursing homes & less pressure on ERs / A shift in plans for Donkin Mine could conflict with lobster fishery / Phone-in: What's the most important information you need when buying or selling property?

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

Some of the most frail men & women in the Maritimes live in nursing homes. In the Halifax area alone, it amounts to more than 2000 people. And with the aging population, that number is rising.
A year ago, when there was a severe shortage of doctors willing to take on their files, the seniors in the Halifax area faced a crisis in medical care. As well, hospital emergency departments and beds were getting overloaded with nursing home residents with complex conditions.
The CBC's Lisa Roberts told us how one passionate doctor used research and observation to come up with a system that's created huge changes in just one year.

For a very long time, the engine of the Cape Breton economy was powered by coal. But the engine went off the track as other global producers began mining the commodity and as some consumers switched to other fuels. The last underground mine on the island closed a decade ago.
So the announcement on Wednesday that Xstrata would reopen the Donkin mine was greeted with a lot of interest on the island.
But not everyone is greeting the news with excitement.
We spoke with Hugh Kennedy, who chairs the Xstrata-Donkin Coal Community Liason Committee.

It's the Battle of the Titans : The Competition Bureau is challenging the rules that Canadian Real Estate Association  imposes on agents who use its Multiple Listing Service or MLS. The Commissioner of the Bureau has applied to the Competition Tribunal to strike down the rules.
In particular, the Bureau says the rules restrict consumers from choosing the real estate services they actually want, force them to pay for services they don't need, and prevent real estate agents from offering more innovative service and pricing options to consumers. In general, The Bureau says the rules result in inflated transaction prices for consumers.
To read about the Commissioner's application to the Competition Tribunal regarding "anti-competitive real estate rules, click here .
The Canadian Real Estate Association calls the Commissioner's allegations "simply false". It had been in negotations with the Competition Bureau for months and stated that it had made the business decision to change the rules in question, whether or not a settlement with the Bureau could be reached. To read CREA's response, click here.
Ultimately, this will be settled by the federal Competition Tribunal. But people interested in buying or selling a home or cottage or other piece of property might have a more ground level view of the flow of information necessary to making an informed decision.
We were joined by Steve Neill of homebuyandsell.com in Vancouver. He launched the complaint that led to the competition bureau challenge.
We asked the Canadian Real Estate Association to take part in our phone-in, but they declined.
Our question "What is the most important information you need when buying and selling property?"

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Coastal action groups can't get commitment from Ottawa on funding for final year / How to help with the Maritimes Butterfly Atlas / Phone-in : Emily White, author of "Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude"

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

Back in 1991, Environment Canada saw an urgent need to repair damaged coastal environments. That's why it launched the Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP), to get ordinary citizens involved. And by all accounts, the program has been working well. Sixteen groups throughout the Atlantic provinces have leveraged Environment Canada's money through matching funding sources and volunteers.
The program is set to wind up. But in the meantime, ACAPs  were expecting to continue their work for the coming fiscal year. Despite sending repeated questions to Environment Canada though, they haven't heard a peep in response. But they have learned that a similar program in Quebec already has stable funding for the coming year.
We spoke with Tim Vickers of ACAP Saint John and Stephen Hawboldt of the Clean Annapolis River Project.

It's the mid-winter in the Maritimes - perhaps the ideal time to start thinking about butterflies. Because some professional scientists want to enlist you as Citizen Scientists this spring and summer. The purpose ? To begin work on the first comprehensive Maritimes Butterfly Atlas.
John Klymko is a Zoologist with the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre at Mount Allison University in Sackville. He gave us the pitch.

Loneliness has been called everything from "the fear of life" to "the cure for vanity".
You can be lonely in a crowd, or perfectly happy with no one else in sight. And while we tend to think of loneliness as a mood - something that comes over each of us from time to time - that doesn't do justice to the ache of longing that can come with chronic loneliness.
It is a psychological affliction that affects 1 in 4 Canadians, researchers say.
Our guest was Emily White, the author of  "Lonely: Learning to Live With Solitude".
She was a successful lawyer, with good friends and a supportive family. But she's spent much of her life concealing her battle with debilitating loneliness. She now works in the area of Seniors' Policy.
We invited you to call with your insights into, or experiences of, loneliness.

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Ottawa explains cutting assistance for literary magazines in the Maritimes and across Canada / Highlights from a major Maritime fundraiser for Haiti / Phone-in: Would it be easier to give if there were fewer charities ?

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

It may be a drop in Ottawa's budgetary bucket, but to the editors of two small Maritime magazines where many Canadian writers get their start, it's what keeps them alive. It's the subsidy they used to get from the federal government help cover the cost of publishing and distribution.
The Fiddlehead and The Antigonish Review are both prestigious publications with international reputations. They published the earliest work of renowned Canadian writers such as Alistair Macleod, David Adams Richards, Lynn Coady and Margaret Atwood.
But the publications have annual paid circulation of fewer than 5,000 copies, and under new rules, that means they are no longer eligible for a subsidy from the Canada Periodical Fund, which is administered through the federal Department of Canadian Heritage.
Jeanette Lynes of the Antigonish  Review and Ross Leckie of The Fiddlehead told us that they wondered how their journals could carry on.
Then Scott Shortliffe,  Director of the  Periodical Publishing Policy and Programs with the Department of Canadian Heritage, explained the rationale behind the reorganization of funding criteria.

Local musicians & celebrities performed at the "Halifax for Haiti" benefit concert on Monday, February 8th. They wowed a crowd of nearly 7000 people with music that ranged from rock & hip hop to opera. "Halifax for Haiti" raised more than $135,000, and when those funds  were matched by the federal government, the total raised for the Red Cross topped $270,000.
Jerry West prepared a soundscape of the event for us. As well, Moncton is planning a  "Concert for Haiti: Big Bands, Big Hearts" at 6:30 p.m. at the Central United Church, 150 Queen St. on Wednesday, February 10th.

Speaking of Haiti, it's focused us on a particular branch of charitable fundraising - emergency relief in Haiti. The CBC Haiti site lists 25 organizations to which you can contribute, and there are easily dozens more that aren't as well-known.
But beyond emergency relief there are ongoing year-round charitable efforts. They can be international or local. They can touch on everything from the environment to medical research into a specific disease; from local food banks to protecting wildlife.
For the potential donor, the decision-making process can get complicated. Within any branch of charity, you can't help but notice that some organizations seem to overlap. Or - if you want to look at it another way, they compete.
Do the administration and fundraising costs of charities operating in the same sphere lead to ineffeciencies in getting the greatest bang for the donor's buck ?
Our guest was Cathy Barr, Vice-President of Operations at Imagine Canada, which conducts research into trends and issues for charities and non-profits.
Our question: Would it be easier to give if there were fewer charities ?

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NB not acting on suggested Family Court reforms / Why NS is putting an end to permits for private citizens to cut firewood on Crown land / Phone-in: Genealogist Terry Punch on tracing your family tree

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

It's rare for a judge to speak publicly about government policy.
But on Friday, February 5th, Justice Raymond Guerette told an audience of the New Brunswick branch of the Canadian Bar Association - including two former ministers of justice - what was on his mind.
Justice Guerette had chaired The Access to Family Justice Task Force which delivered a report to the provincial government in January of 2009 (to read the report, click here ). It featured dozens of recommendations on how to administer justice properly to men, women & children caught up in divorce and custody issues.
But Justice Guerette said that instead of acting on those recommendations to make it less stressful and  expensive to get a divorce, the government had done things which made it more difficult and costly. He went on to say that he and his task force members felt betrayed, but was more concerned about the people caught up in a system which is decades behind the times.
We spoke with Brenda Noble, who practices family law with the firm of Barry Spalding in Saint John. She was also a member of the Access to Family Justice Task Force.

Nova Scotia has traditionally opened up its Crown land for logging - to forestry companies, small private firms and individuals who wanted to cut their own firewood.
But soon, the latter - those individual logging permits - will be a thing of the past.
Cumberland County is one of two areas in the province where individuals are still allowed to cut firewood. But later this month, Nova Scotia will stop granting permits there.
Alan Eddy, regional director for the province's Department of Natural Resources, explained.  

It's safe to say that a century from now, some Canadians will be tracing their family tree back to Haiti - specifically, to early 2010, when their great-grandfather or grandmother left because they'd lost their parents and other family members in the earthquake. And as for those who died in the earthquake, there might be little record of them ever having lived.
Genealogist Terry Punch has long been interested in the natural disasters and wars that have forced people to migrate to other countries. Many Maritimers can probably trace their ancestries to events as diverse as the Irish Potato Famine or the Nazi invasion of European countries.
Terry's discussed the ways that an understanding of these terrible events can provide a richer  background for our genealogical research. He's the author of 3 volumes of Erin's Sons: Irish Arrivals in Atlantic Canada 1761-1853.
He also answered questions about tracing your family tree.
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Could new deal with US on "Buy American" mean more work in Canada for a Maritime firm ? Cape Bretoners prepare to return west as tar sands projects resume / Phone-in: Jim White's advice on using paint, stain or wallpaper

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

When the US launched its massive $800 billion stimulus package last year, the so-called "Buy American" provision shut out Canadian bidders from much of the work.
But today, Ottawa has announced a deal to ease those restrictions. It also gives companies in both countries permanent market access to projects at the sub-federal level - meaning they can bid and work on public works projects at the provincial, state or municipal level.
The agreement applies only to U.S. funding delivered under the current stimulus program, and not to any future legislation that might include similar "Buy American" clauses.
As well, some interprovincial barriers in Canada will have to drop...with some exceptions.
We spoke with Steve Ross, the General Manager of the Cherubini Group of Companies, a steel fabrication company based in Dartmouth.

From boom to bust - and now, back to boom ?
Work in the Alberta Tar Sands is beginning to pick up again. Several major construction projects have been announced in the last few weeks, and together, they're worth billions of dollars.
That's good news for the economy of Wild Rose Country. But what does it mean for people on this side of Canada ?
The CBC's Wendy Martin looked into how it might affect some highly mobile workers from Cape Breton - who are in the same boat as many other Maritimers laid off during the recession in Alberta.  

There are days in winter when the scene outside looks pretty black and white. So we look indoors to get the burst of colour to brighten our moods. But before you go crazy with pots of paint, perhaps some professional advice would help.
Jim White operates Lake City Paint and XXL Painting in Dartmouth. He answered your questions about using paint, stain and wallpaper.
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NS Auditor-General on problems with P3 schools' contracts / Irving-supplied gas stations close in Massachusetts / Phone-in: Doug Bethune answers automotive questions

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

When Public-Private Partnerships were all the rage in the 1990s, provincial governments sold the concept as a way to construct and operate schools more cheaply than they could on their own. The efficiency of the private sector, it was argued, would save taxpayers' dollars on building & running these public insitutions.
In Nova Scotia, it didn't take long for cost overruns to raise questions about this new model. The Conservative government of John Hamm first reduced the number of planned P3 schools, and then abandoned the approach entirely.
But more than 30 P3s were built before the programme ended. And now, the P3 contracts that establish "who's responsible for what" have become a problem, as evidenced by the latest Auditor-General's report.
Jacques Lapointe says the Department of Education has not met the "very high duty of care" required in managing the massive financial obligations : $830 million over 20 years.
He joined us to discuss the weak points in accounting and the challenge of planning for the day the leases expire. [To read the Auditor-General's report, click here .]

This week, Irving Oil's parent company, Fort Reliance, announced that "current economic conditions" have forced the company to abandon a plan to build a new office complex on the Saint John waterfront.
As an illustration of those "current economic conditions", about two dozen gas stations in New England supplied by Irving Oil have closed in recent weeks.
For years, Irving has been steadily developing markets for its fuel from Maine as far south as Rhode Island. It provides gasoline to more than 300 stations throughout the Northeastern US, and although the company doesn't own those stations, the gas is sold under the Irving banner.
Martin Luttrell, a business reporter with the Telegram and Gazette in Worcester, Massachusetts, told us about the closure of Irving-flagged stations owned by the CK Smith fuel company. Then, we spoke with Liza Dubé, Public Relations Director for Irving Oil Marketing in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Our automotive expert, Doug Bethune, talked about turmoil in Toyota land - from sticky accelerator pedals and concerns over electrical systems to inconsistent brake feel in certain 2010 models of its flagship hybrid, the Prius. He also answered your questions about cars, trucks and vans.

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Raj Patel, author of "The Value of Nothing : Why Everything Costs So Much More Than We Think". Phone-in : "In our society, are there things more important than price ?"

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

"Free cellphone with our 3-year plan." "Six months free digital cable if you switch to us." "No money down, no payments until 2011."
Every day, we swim through an ocean of tempting commercial offers, like fish looking at tasty morsels dangling from lines. And even when we know from experience that there's a hook in that bait, a complex set of  wants, needs, emotions and calculations can make us bite something that.
But what's missing in those low-price or even "free" come-ons ?
Raj Patel has explored both the almost mystical role that "price" has played in society and the things that aren't taken into account when we make judgments based on the so-called "sticker price" of everything from cheap food to flat-screen TVs.
On the other side of the ledger, he looks at the value of unpaid work and of rediscovering the idea of "the commons".
Dr Patel is the author of "The Value of Nothing : Why Everything Costs So Much More Than We Think". Our question : "In our society, are there things more important than price ?"
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Head of CBC Sports responds to criticism that Don Cherry promotes environment of violence in hockey / Art Irwin's tips for keeping your home oil line from freezing / Phone-in : The Science of Everyday Life

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

Hockey Night in Canada is an institution. Its coverage of NHL games reaches more than a million Canadians each Saturday night. But do its commentators have a special responsibility to cover hockey in a way that doesn't glorify violence ?
Globe & Mail columnist Roy MacGregor was our guest on Friday's phone-in when we asked  "What's the best way to prevent violence in hockey ?"  
The pretext was Patrice Cormier's elbow-hit to the head of an opponent that left Mikael Tam convulsing on the ice. The discussion didn't so much focus on this incident, but rather on the "environment" fostered at the professional level - the NHL, which Cormier and others aspire to join. There was also discussion of how the NHL is presented & interpreted by the entertainment media.
Roy MacGregor explained why he doesn't like the "rock 'em, sock 'em" approach that Don Cherry, the star of Coach's Corner, brings to HNIC (and Martin Patriquin of Maclean's is even more pointed in this piece ).
We spoke with Scott Moore, Executive Director of CBC Sports, and General Manager of Media Sales and Marketing, about the criticisms.  

Maritime Noon's home heating consultant Art Irwin pulled on a balaclava and muffler and braved the frigid temperatures to join us in studio Monday to take your calls about conserving energy while getting the most from your heating system. Producer Deborah Woolway joined us with Art's response to an email we received after the phone-in.
Richard Gilbert of Halifax wrote that he'd recently upgraded his outdoor oil tank to a fibreglass model and placed it on the original pad. He says the tank's oil line has frozen three times so far this winter, and he wanted to know if the installation procedure for fibreglass models is different than for steel tanks. He also wanted to know how to get the water out of the tank, and wondered if he could use methyl hydrate.
Deborah read Art's helpful response - which is timely, considering that we're into the coldest week of the winter so far.

And how cold is it ? Minus 16 in East Point, PEI; -17 in Economy, Nova Scotia; -24 in Edmundston, New Brunswick at showtime. If you woke up from a Rip Van Winkle-like sleep of 20 years, and stuck your head out the door, your re-orientation would be immediate. You'd know you'd woken up in the middle of the Maritime winter.
And while the week-to-week or day-to-day conditions can vary, we can always recognise the broad strokes of a season.
Well, at least the seasons in this part of the world.
Our science panel was physically separated by half of that world, but brought together through the magic of radio : Mary Anne White in the Maritimes and Richard Wassersug in  Melbourne, Australia, where he's doing research during a sabbatical from Dalhousie University, where he & Mary Anne teach. They answered your questions about The Science of Everyday Life.
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Ganong Panel report on NB/Québec power deal / George Iny's advice for Toyota owners / Rock 'em, sock 'em responses to phone-in on hockey violence / Phone-in : Art Irwin on new regulations for oil tanks and answers to heating system questions

Posted by Costas HALAVREZOS

The most divisive political issue in New Brunswick - and one which ripples into the whole region - is the proposed power deal with Hydro-Québec. The political uproar was so loud that Premier Shawn Graham appointed a 6-person panel chaired by David Ganong to study the Memorandum of Understanding and report publicly.
But the uproar continued, and the proposed sale of assets was amended. The Liberal government reduced the deal from the original $4.75-billion to $3.2-billion - still a substantial amount. This change might have complicated the panel's job, but its chairman  has delivered the assessment, along with recommendations.
CBC Reporter Jacques Poitras gave us the details.
To read the report from the "Advisory Panel on the Proposed New Brunswick - Québec Electricity Transaction", click here.

Toyota Canada has announced that its technicians will install a steel reinforcement bar to fix sticky gas pedals. The fault led to the recall last month of about 270,000 vehicles in Canada,  and 4.2 million vehicles worldwide.   
The Canadian division of Toyota Motor Corporation says it will begin fixing accelerator pedals in some recalled vehicles by the end of this week, but it's unclear how long customers will have to wait before the problem is addressed.
George Iny of the Automobile Protection Association - a frequent guest on the phone-in - had advice for Toyota owners who might not be able to get their cars into the dealership immediately.

Well, Don Cherry and some other commentators on CBC TV's Hockey Night in Canada took it on the chin during last Friday's phone-in, when we asked what's the best way to prevent hockey violence ?
Our guest, Globe and Mail columnist Roy MacGregor, is critical of a hockey environment that he says makes tough hits and fighting acceptable. Hits to the head are in the news because of the recent elbow-to-the-head shot Quebec Major Junior player Patrice Cormier gave Mikael Tam - an assault that left Tam convulsing on the ice.  Police are investigating the incident and charges could be laid.
Cormier is an NHL prospect, and that body says it will convene a summit on hockey violence. But MacGregor doesn't think they'll do much. He also took aim at Hockey Night in Canada, and the rock 'em, sock 'em videos that are commentator Don Cherry's stock in trade (MacGreor's criticisms were mild, compared with those of Maclean's magazine's Martin Patriquin ). Producer Deborah Woolway dropped in with your emails and comments on the answering machine.

 Would you like your oil tank outside the house, or in ? Well, if it's a new installation, you don't have a choice any more. To get details on changes to the national code that regulates domestic oil tanks, we invited heating consultant Art Irwin back into the studio. And, from now until one o'clock he'll also answer questions about how to get the most from your heating system and how to conserve energy
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