New Brunswick·The 506er

The Restigouche Hospital, cliffs for sale and a potent lollipop: 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 Feb. 15.

It's the 'Election-Ready Machine' edition

Good evening,

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


Tidying guru Marie Kondo has become an international phenomenon thanks to her Netflix show Tidying up with Marie Kondo. Folks everywhere are reorganizing their living spaces (you should see my sock drawer) with emphasis on living with less and keeping what sparks joy.

But that means libraries and thrift stores have been inundated with donations. We checked in on how they're handling the onslaught. Check out our video:

With so many New Brunswickers trying to tidy up, libraries say book donations are "coming in by the boatload." 1:57


A report by provincial ombud Charles Murray says there has been 'significant mistreatment' of patients at Restigouche Hospital Centre in Campbellton. (Radio-Canada)

1. The Restigouche Hospital Centre

Negligence. Abuse. Inadequate care. Those were some of the choice words in Charles Murray's stunning report on the crisis in care at the Restigouche Hospital Centre. Last week, the New Brunswick's ombud was unequivocal about the "significant mistreatment" and "chronic understaffing" that exists within the walls of the provincial psychiatric hospital in Campbellton. The report also cast the future of the adjacent youth centre, which is nearly complete, in doubt.

The hair-raising revelations detailed in the report validate concerns of parents who fear for their children. Fathers Reid Smith and Darrell Tidd don't believe their sons are safe in the hospital.

Darrell Tidd worries about the care his son, Devan, is receiving at the Restigouche Hospital Centre. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

"It's on my mind every day, from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep," Tidd said.

The sister of a patient at the Restigouche psychiatric hospital said she was flabbergasted to learn how her loved one had been treated there. The patient was one of the five cases described in the report.

Forty-eight hours after Murray's report, it was announced a patient died at the hospital. Vitalité Health Network and the RCMP are investigating but police say "no criminality" was involved.

Vitalité Health Network CEO Gilles Lanteigne says an action plan was drawn up to change the culture at the hospital in Campbellton. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

Despite the recent news, Vitalité CEO Gilles Lanteigne maintains that the hospital is safe, saying many of the issues noted in Murray's report were previously addressed by the health authority.

Lanteigne also said the facility isn't suffering from understaffing, but even Vitalité's numbers contradict the CEO's statement.

Staffing ratios at the Restigouche Hospital Centre reached a level that Vitalité describes as a "danger" one-third of the time in October, Karissa Donkin reports her in story.

A new safe space for sex workers in downtown Moncton will open in March. The Connection Centre is funded in part by the City of Moncton and will connect people who work in the sex trade with housing, mental health and addiction supports. (Dan Riedlhuber/Reuters)

2. Sex workers' safe space

The CBC's Vanessa Blanch explored in a two-part series this week on the new safe space for sex workers in the Moncton area that's opening soon. The Connection Centre, the first of its kind in the province, will offer sex workers a hot meal, a place to take a shower or a nap, peer support, trauma counselling and access to services and supports such as affordable housing, mental health and addictions counselling.

First, Vanessa spoke with organizers about the need for such a space and how it came to be.

"It's been on the radar since I've started the past three years and to see it actually happening is just really huge," said Jenn Fredericks of the Moncton YMCA.

"My hope is that individuals will be empowered to be who they are. To be empowered to move forward if that's what they choose."

Wendy, who spent two years as a sex worker in Moncton, said if there had been a Connection Centre when she was on the streets she may have been able 'to get out of it a lot sooner.' (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

Second, we hear from two former sex workers who plan to volunteer at the centre and mentor women and girls.

"Every second of every minute," one of the women said. "We're judged by the men that pick us up, and then we're judged by the surrounding businesses that watch us there, and then we're judged by the residents in that neighbourhood as well."

'[Sara Burns] was doing what she loved and working for the community that she loved,' said Steve Burns. (Submitted by Steven Burns)

3. Remembering Sara Burns

Six months after his wife was killed in the Aug. 10 shooting in Fredericton, Steve Burns told CBC News of the many emotions he's felt in the months since, anger isn't one of them.

"I can't really explain it," said Burns, husband of Const. Sara Burns.

"She was doing what she loved and working for the community that she loved. … We spent 24 awesome years together. I spent the day before with her … I just have all these things I hold onto, and that's why I don't get angry about it."

All sales of the Grimsby Pale Ale will go to the Sara Burns Police Memorial Fund. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Meanwhile, the community continues to rally around the victims' families. Funds continue to pour in for the Sara Burns Police Memorial Fund, including 100 per cent of the proceeds from a new Grimross beer named after her beloved horse, Grimbsy.

Shane Fowler spoke with brewer Stephen Dixon who wanted to help out but didn't know how. So, he decided to do what he knows best: brewing.

Denis Landry was chosen interim Liberal leader Tuesday by fellow MLAs in the party. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

4. New Brunswick politics

The Liberal Party selected its interim leader this week, while the path to the June 22 convention became murkier for one leadership hopeful.

Longtime northern New Brunswick MLA Denis Landry steps into the interim leader role after former premier Brian Gallant officially resigned this week. Landry said his priority will be to boost the morale of party members still smarting over the failure to win a majority in last September's election.

René Ephestion, the executive director of Moncton’s Nazareth House, said he will run for the Liberal leadership. (Radio-Canada)

René Ephestion's bid to become the next Liberal leader may be in trouble after the leadership race rules were released. They say a candidate must be eligible to sit as an MLA, meaning he must be a Canadian citizen.

The French national says he has permanent residency and expects to become a citizen before June.

Also this week, Premier Blaine Higgs hinted he's open to changing the province's forestry policy in hopes of restoring the province's traditional exemption from softwood lumber duties.

"If we don't have a fair marketplace, we will fix it," Higgs told reporters ahead of a trip to Washington later this month.

People are responding to Premier Blaine Higgs's decisions, which is helping with donations, PC party president Rick Lafrance says. (Stephen MacGillivray/Canadian Press)

The Progressive Conservatives are also thinking ahead to the next election. Internal party documents obtained by CBC News show the party aims to collect $1.6 million in donations in 2019, as the PCs improve their once desperate financial situation.

The minority-government situation means an election could come much sooner than 2022.

"We want to be an election-ready machine," said PC party president Rick Lafrance. "We will be ready for any election that may come our way, whether it's within six months to four years."

Dr. Robert Stevenson and Dr. Alexandra Saunders treated a patient at the Saint John Regional Hospital who suffered a heart attack after consuming a cannabis lollipop. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

5. Too much THC

A 70-year-old Saint John man was just looking to relieve pain and have an easier time getting some sleep when he sat down with a cannabis-infused lollipop. But the man bit off more than he could handle.

The man, who was already being treated for coronary artery disease, ended up being treated in hospital for a heart attack.

"He was very paranoid, very upset, thought he was going to die at home and then this crushing chest pain started," said Dr. Robert Stevenson.

The incident has doctors warning the public about over-consumption when it comes to cannabis products, especially edibles, which are expected to hit shelves for legal purchase this fall.

The cliffs of North Head, Grand Manan, overlooking the Bay of Fundy, are up for sale after being in the same family for more than 200 years. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

6. These cliffs could be yours

Grand Manan's Hole-in-the-Wall campground, known for its cliff-side campsites boasting spectacular and unobstructed views of the Bay of Fundy, is up for sale. The family that owned the property for 213 years is asking $1.3 million.

Meanwhile, a group is requesting the federal government take on the land and turn it into a satellite portion of Fundy National Park.

"It's one of the only places in Canada, other than Cap-Bon-Ami up in Quebec that's a national park, where you can sit on the cliffs and watch some of the most endangered animals in the world," said Andrea Kelter, who has been spearheading the proposal.

So what kind of planning goes into a snow day anyway? (CBC News)

7. Calling a snow day: Behind the scenes at the school district

There are some assurances in life. Death, taxes and a New Brunswicker saying, "Geez, there have been an awful lot of snow days this year."

Cancelling school because of weather is always a tricky business, but, lucky for you, the CBC's Elizabeth Fraser wrote this helpful explainer on how the school districts decide on calling it a snow day.

That's all for this week.

Have a great weekend.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest election updates delivered right to your inbox with The 506er. Subscribe here.