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Friday, March 18, 2011

5000 In The Dark

It's a Friday night without power for many New Brunswickers. The lights are out for over 5000 NB Power customers including Rothesay, Fredericton, Moncton and St. Stephen.

The utility tells CHSJ News outages are due to sudden high winds causing tree branches, and in some cases, trees to make contact with the lines.

Crews are working to restore power but, due to the elevated number of outages occurring at this time, restoration times will vary. For more, click here

Another Ottawa Cheque Fuels Election Speculation

Yet another funding annoucement in Saint John from the federal government, the third one in the last three days.

Saint John MP Rodney Weston giving $16,000 to the Community Autism Centre to assist in hiring a person with disabilities.  Weston says the possibility of an election is nothing new for him.
Weston says it's clear the opposition parties want an election with all of them making demands on Ottawa and if they are not met, we go to the polls.

No Expansion For The Mackay Highway

The Mackay Highway is not expanding to six lanes according to the Provincial government.
Transportation Minister Claude Williams says the government has concluded it is not necessary at this time.  Williams tells CHSJ News significant savings will come from amending this project.  He says they are at the end of negotiations with Dexter construction and while he doesn't have a firm number he says the savings are in the millions of dollars. The government is pledging to continue with measures that will reduce traffic congestion in the area. Upgrades will be made to the Route 111 interchange and selected ramps along the highway to improve access and safety.

Landowners Approve of Change To Wetlands Policy

Landowners giving Provincial Environment Minister Margaret Ann Blaney a standing ovation for the changes she announced in wetlands policy. Gone are the predictive layer and 50 metre buffer zone along with the reverse onus requirement for landowners to spend sometimes thousands of dollars to prove their properties don't contain wetlands. Blaney says wetlands provincewide will not be disappearing.

She says they are seeing a net increase in wetlands from 4 to 6 per cent and she hopes to introduce a new strategy early next year.

She also says permits will be required for alterations in or within the 30 meter buffer of a mapped wetland.

Split Reaction to the Environment Minister's New Wetlands Policy

Mike Haines of Quispamsis is happy now that he won't be stuck with land he couldn't sell.

He says his family had a life plan set and he says the Department of the Environment with their previous wetlands policy really messed up with their one acre building lot.
David Thompson of the Conservation Council tells CHSJ News there are some issues that have to be addressed.

He says situations have come about in recent years costing the taxpayers millions of dollars particularly in coastal areas where roads and bridges have been built over marshes that are flooding. Thompson is also accusing the city of dumping ten thousand tons of rock on a wetland in Rockwood Park.

Labour group opposes service cuts

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the provincial government has to make significant cuts to the public service in Tuesday's budget. The Federation's Atlantic Director Kevin Lacey describes it as financially unsustainable. Michel Boudreau of the Provincial Federation of Labour tells CHSJ News that's not what people were saying at the pre-budget consultations back in September.

He says they want a strong public service and he adds it's not about cuts but about revenue.
Boudreau questions whether you want to make cuts in education, healthcare and services for seniors. He says the government should not go ahead with tax cuts that had been announced by the previous Liberal government.

Fire Forces Tenants To Flee Apartment Building

12 people are homeless after a fire in an apartment building at 168 St. James Street.

Firefighters found heavy smoke billowing from the building upon arrival.

No one was injured and the cause is under investigation.

No Push To Raise Taxi Fares In City

The recent spike in gas prices has many people thinking a corresponding increase in taxi fares might be on the way.

Not yet-that from the President of the City's Taxi Advisory Committee.Christine Saumure tells CHSJ news no official discussion has taken place yet but that could change quickly.

Samure says should gas prices increase, she can see a dialogue happening between the advisory comittee and taxi stand owners to reevaluate the situation.

Many taxi drivers are implementing an anti-idling policy and it's working so well, we are told, one Saint John company isn't feeling the pinch from high gas prices whatsoever.

Saumure says there is no interest at this point in adding the gas surtage to taxi fares in the city.