Nova Scotia

Ellen Page digs deeper to buy a well for Shelburne

Actor, filmmaker and activist Ellen Page will pay the entire cost of construction and annual maintenance of a community well in Shelburne, N.S.

Actor and activist agrees to fund project’s construction and maintenance costs

Director Ellen Page poses for a photograph on the red carpet for the film There's Something in the Water during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 8, 2019. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

Ellen Page made the town council of Shelburne, N.S., an offer they couldn't refuse.

The Nova Scotia-born actor, filmmaker and activist had been pledging financial support to help a non-profit group in the South Shore town build a community well.

But at a recent council meeting, elected officials turned down Page's offer amid concerns it wouldn't be enough to cover the cost of the project at a time when the town is facing a crippling financial position that could see the end of its status as a municipality.

That decision did not deter Page.

"She just stepped up and she just said, 'Well, I'll pay whatever they want,'" said Louise Delisle, whose community group, South End Environmental Injustice Society, has pushed for the well.

"Can you imagine? This lady is such a wonderful, wonderful person."

A new community well will be installed at the Roger Grovestine Memorial Recreation Complex in Shelburne's south end. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

Delisle met Page while the actor was working on a documentary about environmental racism. It was then that she learned about the challenges people in Shelburne's south end had with contaminated wells and heard the call for a community well in that part of town.

That's what spawned the initial offer from Page to pay for part of the cost. But the town, which estimated the project would cost much more than Delisle's group did, was in no position to accept the offer and instead proposed putting in a tap connected to the public water line in a different location for a much lower cost.

"We've tried to make good financial decisions and not add anything to that debt that we didn't have to," said Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatall.

But Mattatall said Page's willingness to pay for everything made it easy for council to accept the offer. The motion passed on Monday says the cost of installing the well would be up to $25,000 and annual maintenance would be $5,000.

"This donation must cover the total cost of well construction and annual maintenance for the life of the well," reads the motion.

Louise Delisle is part of the Shelburne-based group South End Environmental Injustice Society. (CBC)

The town's CAO will now work with Page's representatives to sign a contract for the project.

A side benefit of the plan, which will see the well installed at the Roger Grovestine Memorial Recreation Complex, is that it provides a new source of water for a town that has faced drought conditions in recent summers, said Mattatall. That's important, she said, because recent studies have highlighted the strain on the town's own water supply.

"One of the issues along the way is, especially with drought, how much more can the lake sustain?"

For Delisle, Monday's decision is the culmination of a determined push to help a part of town she believes has been underserved and at times overlooked. She's still processing the fact that their proposal will now go ahead.

Delisle said she's thankful council accepted the offer. She sees it as some good news at a time when the community is struggling with the town's financial situation and its future as a municipality. Delisle said she believes there's a broader takeaway.

"This is actually, I think, a good thing for the community and it's going to help us realize if we work hard together, we can actually move those stones."