New Brunswick·The 506er

Justice for Diesel, cannabis layoffs and an earthquake: It's your weekend briefing

The 506er, CBC New Brunswick's newsletter, returns to bring you the major talking points in provincial news for the week ending Jan. 11.

It's the 'Pet a Moose' edition

Good evening,

Here's what we're talking about this week:

Video of the week

Chayan Saha has been passionate about dancing since the age of 15. With his wife, he has formed Bollywood Dance Studios Inc. and is bringing Indian dance to Saint John.

Chayan Saha has been passionate about dancing since the age of 15. Together with his wife, they've formed Bollywood Dance Studios Inc. and are bringing Indian dance style to Saint John. 0:59

Top stories:

1. Natural hazards

New Brunswickers were literally shaken by separate natural incidents on the East Coast this week.

Earthquakes Canada confirmed the quake Thursday morning hit an area 17 km northwest of Hampton. (CBC)

Southern residents were startled Thursday by a confirmed 3.8 magnitude earthquake that hit 19 kilometres northwest of Saint John. People reported a loud bang and shaking buildings during the brief but far-reaching tremor.

There have been several earthquakes, albeit less severe, in the province during the past three years, including a "swarm" of 22 minor quakes near McAdam last spring.

Two days later and about 700 kilometre north, an avalanche at Gaspésie National Park swept up a group of skiers from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Seven people skiing up the Mur des Patrouilleurs on Mont Albert in the Gaspé were caught in an avalanche Tuesday afternoon. (William Bastille-Denis/Radio-Canada)

Jordan Cheney of Fredericton was cross-country skiing with friends on Mont Albert when the avalanche hit. Six of the skiers, including Cheney, were injured.

"We would consider ourselves to be extremely lucky to have walked away from that," said Cheney.

2. Cannabis NB layoffs

Cannabis NB, the provincial retailer of legalized pot, confirmed this week it's laying off about 60 employees. The news comes 12 weeks after New Brunswick's 20 Cannabis NB locations opened their doors.

Part of the letter Cananbis NB retail workers received advising them their employment would be terminated effective immediately. (Submitted)

The majority of laid-off employees were on seasonal contracts, but some part-time and full-time employees were also affected. Cannabis NB workers are not unionized.

The provincial cannabis authority has been plagued with supply issues from the outset, and its retail prices are among the highest in the country.

3. Oland retrial

Glen McCloskey, the former deputy police chief, gave his much-anticipated testimony during the Dennis Oland murder retrial this week in Saint John court.

The now-retired McCloskey said he made mistakes during the investigation, including his movements around the crime scene while not wearing protective gear.

Retired deputy chief Glen McCloskey testified Thursday at Dennis Oland's murder retrial. (CBC)

Oland's defence team continues to attack the Saint John Police Force's investigation into the accused, saying this week that investigators suffered from "tunnel vision" in their work and ignored evidence contrary to their theory.

Oland is charged with second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his father, Richard Oland.

4. Dog abandoned to starve

A 27-year-old New Brunswick man will be sentenced in the spring for leaving his dog to starve to death in a locked home over the course of two months.

Kyle Springer of Hartland pleaded guilty this week to abandoning his dog, Diesel, in a rental home with no food. His landlords discovered the dog's remains.

Diesel died of starvation after being left alone in an apartment for more than two months. His owner Kyle Springer pleaded guilty in court on Tuesday. 1:07

Animal rights advocates were present at the Woodstock courthouse on Tuesday, calling for justice and stricter legislation and enforcement to protect animals.

Environment and Local Government Minister Jeff Carr said his department is looking into improving animal protection laws.

5. Renovation nightmare

After CBC News reported in November that a Moncton-area homeowner says she lost nearly $50,000 to contractors Mark Charles, who also goes by Mark Garland, and Roger Leblanc, another area family has come forward with a similar story involving the same contractors.

Steven Dawe moved to Moncton with his young family two years ago when he left the military. He used his disability award to renovate his home but says he's now out $22,000 and completing the renovations himself. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Military veteran Steven Dawe used his disability award to renovate his home to make room for a new baby. Dawe said he's out $22,000 now and is completing the renovations himself.

"It's just all been complete lies from them," Dawe said.

The Greater Moncton Home Builders' Association urges customers to spot the red flags and know how to protect themselves when hiring contractors. The association shared some helpful tips.

6. NB Power rates and meters

NB Power announced this week it will be seeking higher-than-expected rate increases across the board.

Citing increased fuel prices, among other things, the utility requested an average 2.5 per cent increase in power rates for all its classes, the highest being a 2.9 per cent increase for residential customers.

The utility's 10-year plan predicted average increases of two per cent.

NB Power president and CEO Gaëtan Thomas says the utility is going to have more, well-outlined savings in its smart meter plan this year. (CBC)

NB Power is also starting public consultations to garner support for its revived smart meter plan.

CEO Gaëtan Thomas said the revised $122-million plan includes more accurate savings than the version that was rejected by the Energy and Utilities Board last year.

Thomas said new information suggests the meters would save even more power than initially projected.

7. Commissioners use legal might

Two of the province's senior watchdogs have recently used the court system to intervene in separate cases.

First, CBC News learned the now-retired Integrity commissioner made historic use of his post's appeal power to force the province to turn over documents it refused to release.

Alexandre Deschênes filed the appeal in October after the government refused to heed his recommendation. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

Alexandre Deschênes filed the appeal in October after the government refused to heed his recommendation to give a New Brunswick woman a copy of an investigator's report into her own social assistance case.

Then, CBC News reported Official Languages Commissioner Michel Carrier will be allowed to intervene in the judicial review that will examine contradictory orders related to bilingual hiring requirements for paramedics.

In December, Health Minister Ted Flemming said the province would implement the so-called McEvoy decision, an arbitrator's ruling that calls for a regional-based hiring system that would not require bilingual paramedics in areas of the province where there is less demand for second-language service.

Official Languages Commissioner Michel Carrier will be able to intervene in a contentious court case involving Ambulance New Brunswick's bilingual hiring practices. (CBC)

Carrier has said those changes "compromise the respect of New Brunswickers' language rights" and should not be implemented.

8. Downtown trouble

Barry Hughes is the co-owner of Dolan's Pub in downtown Fredericton. (Elizabeth Fraser/CBC)

While business closures are considered a cyclical trend in cities across North America, there are elements to the recent closures in downtown Fredericton that are troubling, according to a university professor.

CBC News examined the ever-changing nature of the downtown business community, how some long-running businesses have stayed open and why they believe there's plenty of upside in the future.

9. Trial translation

Patty Musgrave is leading a fight to have simultaneous English interpretation at the upcoming trial of Maurice Johnson. Johnson is charged with failing to stop at the scene of an accident in connection with the hit-and-run death of Brady Francis.

Brady Francis was 22 when he was struck and killed last February while waiting for a drive on Saint-Charles South Road. (Facebook photo)

Johnson elected to be tried in French, but the Perley-Francis family, who speak Mi'kmaq and English, won't be able to follow along.

"Can you imagine — your child being killed … and then you're sitting in court not even knowing what's happening. It's so wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong," Musgrave said.

10. Animal videos

If you've made it this far, you deserve some animal videos — two of which made a splash this week.

There's the one about a juvenile moose that allowed itself to be petted on the side of the road.

Wildlife biologists have previously said moose behaving this way likely suffer from brain worm, a neurological parasite. They warn that despite the animal's friendly appearance, they may be ill and unpredictable. 1:01

And there's the one about someone releasing turkeys into the New Brunswick wilds.

Turkeys likely raised in captivity are showing up in various backyards and some suspect it is no accident. 0:59

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