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Monday, May 7, 2012

A Chance to Travel Without Leaving Home

 May is Asian Culture and Heritage Month. Saint John's Asian community celebrating its heritage with song, dance, and other performances at Market Square. The event was just a teaser for a month full of exciting events.

Dr. Li Hong Xu (Lee Hong Shoe) of UNB Saint John tells CHSJ New there's going to be a lot happening to bring the Asian culture to Saint John.

The Asian Heritage Cultural Gala Happens May 27 at 7pm at Centre Samuel De Champlain, 67 Ragged Point Road in Millidgeville. It will feature singing, dancing, and other cultural performances. Admission is Free. 

An Asian Heritage Educational and Cultural Arts Exhibition will be displayed at the New Brunswick Museum at Market Square throughout the month of May. Usual Museum admission fees apply.

Other events will be held as well: for more information, contact the provincial Asian Heritage Society Chair Madhu Verma at 454-412.

Shooting Suspects Nabbed

Two wannabe gunslingers being charged after a shooting incident in Sussex. Clayton Douglas Mercer being charged with assault with a weapon after a weekend shooting incident. An unnamed 19 year old was also involved.

Police responding to a call on Friday night of gun going off on Fowler Avenue in Sussex. Both men fled the scene and no one was injured.

Mercer was arrested on Saint James Street West in Saint John and the 19 year old turned himself in to the Sussex RCMP. It's been determined the shots were an isolated incident as the parties involved knew each other. 

US Military Helicopters Make Stop At Airport

Several US Army helicopters making a stop at the Saint John Airport.

Airport spokesperson Collen Kemp-Mitchell tells CHSJ News four Chinook and three Blackhawk helicopters landed at the Saint John Airport in order to clear customs -- she says the helicopters are in the province for NATO exercises at CFB Gagetown.

She adds no flights were delayed at the airport because of the visit.

Strong Turnout At Advance Polls

Over 20-thousand residents coming out to vote at the advanced polls over the weekend - that from Mike Quinn of Elections NB.

Quinn tells CHSJ News it's an impressive number because 26-thousand people voted during the last municipal election.
Elections NB ran awareness campaigns last month and he feels people are beginning to realize how important local elections are.

The advance polls continue today until 8 o'clock.

Election Day is May 14th.

Local Hotel Group Launches Tourism Appreciation Campaign

The Saint John Hotel Association launching a public awareness campaign to grow local awareness and appreciation about the value of tourism in the Port City.

The campaign hits social media, radio waves, and the web with testimonials from local businesses on how important tourism to our community.

Spokesperson Paulette Hicks tells CHSJ News tourism dollars are more important than ever given tough economic times.

She says more than 1.5 million people visit the city every year and spend up to 250 million dollars.

To check out the campaign, click here.

Ward 3 Candidate Says He Can't Get Information On City's Pension Plan

Time is running short to make your pitch before voters get to cast their ballots in the Municipal election next Monday.

An all candidates meeting will be held tomorrow night at Harbourview High that's being organised by the Canadian Union of Public Employees. It gets underway at 7 and three hours have been set aside for it.

Chris Belyea, who operates a home care agency for seniors with his wife, is running in Ward 3.

As for what he would do about the city's pension plan and its rising deficit, Belyea concedes he and some of the other candidates have been trying, without success to get information.

He would like to see more co-operation and less confrontation at Common Council along with seniors getting a bit of relief with their utility bills. Belyea tells CHSJ News he has seen first hand seniors forgoing food and medication to pay those bills.

Pharmacists Publish Open Letter To The Premier

Pharmacists in the province are not a happy lot these days, claiming their reimbursement from the government for dispensing fees and markup don't cover their costs.

The Executive-Director of the Pharmacists Association in the province, Paul Blanchard tells CHSJ News it costs from 13 to 15 dollars to dispense medications but the government is proposing an increase to $10.40. He also points out pharmacists in New Brunswick earn about 20 per cent less than their counterparts in Nova Scotia where there is a negotiated agreement.

Blanchard warns you could see a shortage of drugs together with more visits to the E-R and after hours clinics of people suffering adverse drug reactions.

He charges the provincial government doesn't appear to fully appreciate the role pharmacists play in the healthcare system.

The Province And Dental Society Reach A Deal

The Province and the dental society have a new deal to keep providing dental services to more than 51,000 clients of Social Development.

The contract is retroactive to April 1st of last year and runs until March 31, 2015.   By April 1st of 2014, the province will cover 81.5 per cent of the services compared to the current 68 per cent.

Over the course of the deal, the department will invest about $21 million in dental services for social development clients.

Airport Hopeful About Landing Another Airline

Porter Airlines is very interested in Saint John........That word from Airport President and C-E-O Bernie Leblanc who says they don't have any planes or time slots available. 

He's also holding out hope of Westjet resuming service to the city now that it has bought smaller, more energy efficient aircraft from Bombardier which is a better fit for a market the size of Saint John.
As for direct flights to the U.S., discussions have taken place Leblanc concedes the possibility of those coming about will be a challenge until the American economy improves.

Mayor Says Deadline On Proposed Pension Changes Will Be Met

There was some concern the city would miss yet another deadline for getting its proposed changes to the pension plan in to the province so they could be approved during the current sitting. 

Mayor Ivan Court says that should be no problem because the city got the numbers back from the actuary on Friday which will be passed on to the Superintendent of Pensions. 

Court also tells CHSJ News he was asking the same questions about the city's pension plan as former Common Councillor John Ferguson but broke with him the well publicised alleged conversation in the City Market about disability pensions being approved illegally. 

Ferguson would not divulge to his fellow Council members who the conversation was with. Court maintains he had a duty to do so. The Pension Board has maintained the conversation never took place.

The Mayor will also be trying tonight to get funding restored for lifeguards from the 400 thousand dollars the city saved in snow clearing costs because we had such a mild winter.


Pension Deficit Likely To Worsen

The city pension plan's deficit will likely be rising even more than the last estimate of 193 million dollars. 

That warning from Sandy Robertson, a Saint John businessman who worked on the Mayoralty campaign of John Ferguson. 

Robertson tells CHSJ News the deficit will likely go up because the Superintendent of Pensions has told the Pension Board it will have to lower the estimated rate of return on its investments and that could add 80 million dollars to the deficit.

Robertson says each candidate for Common Council should be asked directly what are you going to do to fix the pension plan.   

Last Chance to Vote Early

Just a reminder to voters out there: advance polls are open today (Monday) from 10am until 8pm.

Information about your advance polling stations will been on your voter registration card, which should have been mailed to you last week. Bringing that card will ensure elections officers will be able to find you quickly in the system.

People who don't appear on the voter list are asked to bring identification. The municipal election happens on May 14th.

Credit Counsellor Says Getting Out of Debt Is Possible

Being in debt can be a scary experience--but according to Credit Counseling Services of Atlantic Canada, professionals can help you sort of a payment plan, reduce interest rates, and get those collections agencies to stop calling.

Despite household debt numbers skyrocketing to 150% of annual income last year, credit counsellor John Eisner us their clients managed to pay off almost 11 million dollars. One of their success stories was a single mom from Truro, N.S., who managed to pay off her massive debt without filing for bankruptcy. Eisner says  Christine Stewart is ecstatic to finally have money in the bank.

Eisner says debt is a major stress and dealing with it improves people's quality of life.

Lockout Ends At Acadien Coach Lines

Intercity bus service is expected to resume over the next 10 to 12 days now that the 5 month lockout has ended.

The drivers, mechanics and customer servide reps were locked out on December 2nd. They voted 92 per cent in favour of accepting a tentative deal from Acadien Coach Lines.

Their union leader Glen Carr has released a statement claiming the past is the past and the union leadership now wants to move forward and improve relations with the company's new regional manager.