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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Housing Starts Tumbling

New housing starts in the greater Saint John area are off compared to a year ago -- the latest stats from Canada Mortgage and Housing show 50-new units started last month -- down from 131 in September of last year.
Year to date figures are also trailing last year's performance with new starts for the 9-months ending in September down 21-percent against the same period a year ago.
Moncton is also reporting a drop in new housing starts in the nine month period while Fredericton is up eight percent.

Top Honor for NB Power

Make sure you say congratulations to anyone you know who works for NB Power. In a recent survey by MediaCorp, the public utility has been named as one of country's top 100 employers for 2010. This is the third consecutive year NB Power has been in the top 100. President and CEO David Hay says they are very honoured to be recognized nationally and for three consecutive years is significant.

NB Power employs 2500 people.

CBS Talks About Possible Plans

(From Left to Right...Dr. Graham Sher, CEO, Jean Paul
Bedard, VP of Public Affairs and C.O.O. Ian Mumford)
                  (Photo by Jim Hennessy)
With more meetings between Canadian Blood Services and the Medical Society scheduled for next week, we have been given a peak as to what some of the options are with the distribution center being moved to Dartmouth. The model both sides seem happy with is the one where apheresis production will remain here and setting up a stock holding unit. Chief Operating Officer Ian Munford says nothing at this point is set in stone.
Mumford aso point out the medical society will have the final say on which model is adopted and trial runs will be carried out in the near future. Chief Executive Officer Dr. Graham Sher will meet with Health Minister Schryer tomorrow to go over the latest developments. He remains hopeful the Province will stay with CBS and not explore other options which include getting into the blood business.

Province Speaks on Latest Developments

Even with the latest developments unveiled today......the Provinces stance remains the same......they want their own production-distribution center. That from Saint John east MLA Roly MacIntyre, acting as the senior representative from the Graham Government at today's news conference. He isn't re-assured by the comparison of hospital set-ups in Halifax and Saint John saying a lot of the facilities in Halifax have been consolidated.

MacIntyre adds Health Minister Schryer and Premier Graham need some time to digest all of this new information but their experience with consolidation hasn't been great.

What About CBS Employee's in Saint John?

The other issue lost in the shuffle of all this talk over the home of the distribution center is what happens to the current employee's on University Avenue. 17 will be affected by the center's move to Dartmouth but Chief Executive Officer Dr. Graham Sher tells CHSJ News, their Career Bridging Program will leave no one out in the cold.

Some of the options for the 17 employee's include re-location to Dartmouth, a transfer to work at a hospital or further training for another field of work.

Health Department Defends H1N1 Flu Vaccine

The province's Chief Medical Health Officer is debunking an unpublished study that claims the seasonal flu vaccine can increase the likelihood of getting the H1N1 pandemic virus. Dr. Eilish Cleary says the findings are not consistant with the results of other international studies. Dr. Cleary also assures people that the H1N1 vaccine is not dangerous.

Pandemic activity is still at low levels according to the provincial Health Department in this Province.

Driver Facing Charges After Crash Near Sussex

A 20 year old man is facing several driving charges after crashing into another vehicle yesterday on Route 870 in Collina. A 36 year old man and a 32 year old woman who were in the vehicle that was struck were taken to hospital with injuries, treated, and released.

The 20 year old driver from Smith Creek has been charged with driving without a valid licence, no insurance and driving a vehicle without a valid registration. Police say it was raining heavily at the time of the collision.

Animal Shelter Offers Seniors for Seniors Program

Studies show owning a pet can increase the quality of life for seniors--and--the Saint John Animal Rescue League is trying to make that connection for more seniors in the city. The shelter is offering a program called 'Seniors for Seniors' that matches senior citizens with old dogs that no longer have a home. Director Janet Foster tells CHSJ news it's difficult to find homes for old dogs and they have more than usual at the shelter right now.

Foster says the cost is only 20 dollars for seniors to get an old dog and they will try to find a sponsor to cover the cost of having the pet spade or neutered if needed.

Fundy Region Solid Waste Commission Prepares to Convert Methane Gas into Electricity

An electrical generation unit for the Fundy Region Solid Waste Commission's new project to convert methane gas into energy is expected to arrive from Austria in March.  The unit will take methane gas from decomposing garbage and turn it into power for the landfill's facilities. General Manager Mark MacLeod tells CHSJ news the biggest challenge over the next few months will be working with legislators, licensors, and the Energy and Utilities board.

MacLeod says they are in the process of capping cell number four at the landfill and drilling 15 new wells in preparation for the arrival of the electrical generation unit. Support from the government's Climate Action Fund will cover costs for the project this year. The provincial government has contributed 1.75-million dollars to help with the five million dollar total cost of the project.

Protestors Back At it Again

Unemployed labourers protesting the use of workers from outside the province at the Canaport LNG facility are back at it again today. A caller to our 648-3000 news line tells us they are already lining up outside her home on Bayside Drive. Yesterday, about 75 labourers blocked traffic in the Red Head area.

Shawn McAdam represents one of the unions upset about members of CLAC taking jobs from trades-people who live in this Province. He has said CLAC is nothing more than a non-unionized scab cross-trading outfit. The workers are being transported onto the Canaport LNG site daily to work on construction of the third storage tank.

Gas Prices Back on the Up-Swing

After five straight weeks of price drops, gasoline costs a little bit more today. The Energy and Utilities Board has released its maximum price schedule and regular self-serve gas comes in at 93.1, plus a possible two cent delivery charge. That's up from 89.8 yesterday.

The price of furnace oil has also gone up about three cents to land at 83.5, including the delivery charge--but--propane has dropped percentage points to 98.1.

Saint John's Latest Budget Numbers Coming Soon

Projections on the year end budget numbers should be on the Finance Committees desk in a few weeks. Commissioner of Finance Greg Yeomans says the department received the numbers from the province last week and needs some time to review them.

Yeomans says in a few weeks the Finance Committee will receive a presentation on the August numbers and projections towards the end of the year, but as of right now it's too early to make any informed comments.

Mayor Says Bigger Isn't Always Better

(File Photo of Mayor Ivan Court)

Mayor Ivan Court is calling it a dark day for the city and the province. Court says the decision to move the Canadian Blood Services distribution centre doesn't make sense, especially with Saint John having a trauma centre and a medical school about to come online. Court says bigger doesn't necessarily mean better.

Court says there should be two sites, one in the city to service New Brunswick and PEI, and the one in Dartmouth to service Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia Expected Blood Distribution Centre to Move

Even with all of the negotiations going on to keep CBS in Saint John, the NDP Government in Nova Scotia has been preparing for the move since the announcement was made back in March. Health Department spokes-person Brent Mahoney tells CHSJ News, negotiations with CBS officials have been on-going but they were never given any indication CBS wasn't going to make the move since announcing it back in the spring.

Still no word on when construction will get started or a specific date when they hope to have the new facility open.