Tantramar Report: Voices from Sackville’s CUPE rally; health care and local government plans due this week

A group of protesters walk down the street in Sackville on a sunny day. They hold protest signs about CUPE.
CUPE picketers march in downtown Sackville on Nov. 5, 2021. Photo by Erica Butler.
Erica Butler - CHMA - SackvilleNB | 15-11-2021
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Listen to Tantramar Report for the following stories:

Sackville rallies behind CUPE and a tentative deal ends strike

Hundreds of Sackville kids will be heading to school today instead of firing up devices at home, thanks to a tentative agreement reached by CUPE and the province on the weekend.

The deal announced late Saturday evening ended a two week long strike by seven CUPE locals, and a lockout by the provincial department of education.

Although CUPE and the government had been close on wages for most of the strike, the point of contention in the negotiations appeared to be pensions. The government had been asking that two CUPE locals agree to change their pension plans to shift risk from the government to the plan members, and CUPE refused. In the end, the two parties agreed to a review of the pension plans, without committing to the "shared risk" style preferred by Premier Blaine Higgs.

While negotiations were underway on Friday, a number of Sackvillians gathered at York and Main to show their support for CUPE members on strike. Bruce Wark was there to document the action, and brings us voices and perspectives from the rally on Tantramar Report.

COVID-19 update: Zone 1 still seeing cases of unknown origin

A blue and white graphic made by the New Brunswick government that shows the COVID-19 numbers for November 14, 2021

The latest COVID-19 numbers provincially. Photo courtesy of the New Brunswick government.

There were 65 new cases of COVID-19 announced in New Brunswick on Sunday. More recoveries means the active case total dropped slightly to 534. 24 of the new cases were reported in Zone 1, and, yet again, almost all of those cases are under investigation, with just two known to be contacts of previously confirmed cases.

Across the border in the Cumberland Health Zone, there are 49 active cases of COVID-19 as of Friday. Nova Scotia does not report new case numbers over the weekend.

Rapid test distribution in Sackville

Horizon Health will be distributing packs of rapid COVID-19 tests again on Tuesday at the Tantramar Civic Centre, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., or until supplies run out. Mount Allison University has also started to distribute packs of rapid tests to students, staff and faculty on campus. The university will host a pick up site in The Pond on Wednesday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., open to anyone with a university ID.

Football Mounties end season in semi-finals

The Mount Allison Mounties saw their AUS football season come to an end on Saturday when they lost 23-5 to the Bishop’s Gaiters in a semi-final playoff game at Alumni Field. The Bishop’s Gaiters will now travel to StFX to play the X-Men in the 2021 Loney Bowl on Saturday, Nov. 20.

Municipal reform will mean big changes

Local governance reform minister Daniel Allain told reporters on Friday that the municipal reform process being announced this week in New Brunswick would reduce the number of local government entities by more than one third, “from 340 to fewer than 100.”

There are now 104 local governments in New Brunswick, including cities, villages and towns such as Sackville. There are eight rural communities such as Cocagne and Beaubassin East, and one regional municipality, Tracadie-Sheila. There are also 236 local service districts without formal elected representation, governed by the province.

Allain told reporters the plan would strengthen the role of the regional service commissions and make sure all residents have a say in how their region is run.

A white paper detailing the government’s plan is expected to be released on Thursday, and legislation to enact the changes will follow sometime in December.

Health plan also expected this week

The provincial government is releasing another plan this week that promises to be transformative for the province. Stabilizing Health Care: An Urgent Call to Action is the title of the new health care plan expected sometime this week.

The implementation of the plan will be led by Dr. Suzanne Johnston, former president of Niagara Health in Ontario, and Gérald Richard, a former deputy minister in the Department of Health. The two will led a task force that will make recommendations to the ministers of Health and Social Development regarding the implementation of the plan.

The task force will be independent from government, and authorized to call upon the expertise of health professionals, academics and other experts.

The province says the plan is “intended to stabilize and rebuild New Brunswick’s health-care system to be more citizen-focused, efficient, accountable, inclusive and service-oriented.”