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‘Province is in terrible shape’:Tantramar MLA

Province is in ‘terrible shape:’ Tantramar MLA

Published Wednesday February 23rd, 2011

Minister of Agriculture Mike Olscamp brings reality check to Dorchester council meeting

by meg edwards
Times & Transcript staff

DORCHESTER – Minister for Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries and Progressive Conservative MLA for the Tantramar Riding, Mike Olscamp, dropped into the Dorchester council meeting Monday night and told council and those in attendance that the province was in “terrible shape.”

“It will be five years before we address the debt,” said Olscamp, warning those present that when the budget is presented on March 22, the “honeymoon will probably be over.”

Olscamp said that he has been in meetings with citizens across the province, shareholders of his three departments, asking them what they could not afford to lose, saying that it is hard to ask that question of a farmer.

“We’ve cut three per cent, one per cent before Christmas and two per cent since,” said Olscamp, “but more cuts are coming. Next year we have to cut another two per cent and that is when we are going to get right down to the bare bones.

“At the end of the day, either we sink or we swim,” said Olscamp. “These are tough times and tough decisions have to be made.”

In response to village clerk/treasurer Simonne Malenfant’s query as to why the province could not raise taxes to help pay the deficit that way, Olscamp said the HST is a punitive tax that punishes the working poor and that can have a negative effect on business.

Although Olscamp’s provincial message was dire, he encouraged the council to look for ways to spend their tax rebate, and confirmed that they will see improvements to the road between Dorchester and Sackville (the 1.5 kilometres between Palmer Road and the new bridge).

Olscamp also agreed with councillors that small rural areas feel the cuts more than larger centres. For example, he said that although SEED student jobs have been cut across the province because of the increase to the minimum wage, he was going to make a strong argument supporting the small villages’ need for student jobs compared to larger cities where the students have other work opportunities.

Olscamp confirmed that the Finn Report was back on the table, but that he did not know what it was going to look like when it rolled out.

“How far are we going to go with it? I don’t know but it has already begun,” said Olscamp, referring to the amalgamation of 14 areas in Tracadie.

In his parting remarks, Olscamp reminded those present that “Everyone in the province is going to have to be ready to bite the bullet.”

In other council news, Fire Chief Greg Partridge asked council to consider the volunteer fire department’s need for a new ventilation system in the fire hall once the proposed new fire truck is added to the other two diesel vehicles.

Partridge also reported that the Westmorland-Albert Solid Waste Corporation has had to clear the roofs of their buildings five times this winter, which is “time-consuming and expensive.”

Council moved to write a letter to Mayor Pat Estabrooks of Sackville in support of Sackville’s request for improvements to Walker Road. Mayor Mel Goodland emphasized that he would like to see that section of the road made into a provincial route allowing Dorchester a more direct access from the highway.

“I don’t think they will change that back,” said Councillor Grant MacDonald, surprising Goodland with the news that part of the highway had once been part of Highway 935.

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