Library brings drag story time to Liverpool for first time

Drag performers Rhett Torical and Rouge Fatale read to kids and adults as part of Reading with Royalty at the Thomas H. Raddall Library in Liverpool on Thursday. (Rick Conrad photo)

Drag queen story hour made its fabulous debut in Liverpool on Thursday as part of Pride celebrations on the South Shore.

The event, dubbed Reading with Royalty, featured Rouge Fatale, one of Nova Scotia’s best known drag performers, and drag king Rhett Torical.

They were at the Thomas H. Raddall Library to read to and sing along with kids and their parents, grandparents and others.

Two hecklers stood outside the library and yelled insults at Rouge and Rhett as they entered the building. The women later came into the library to watch. Staff had to ask one of them to leave after she appeared to be taking photos of the crowd.

Still, about 20 people showed up to listen to Rouge and Rhett read from such books as My Shadow is Purple, Bathe the Cat, Julian is a Mermaid and The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish, which was also one of the singalongs.

Here are some sounds from the afternoon and reaction from those who were there. 

Bristol Avenue residents protest proposed four-storey apartment building

Bob Chouinard, Valerie Wilcox, Carolyn Campbell, Janet Perry, Tony Flint and Roger Wilcox, all residents of Bristol Avenue in Liverpool, were among a group of people who told Region of Queens councillors on Tuesday that they oppose a 24-unit apartment building proposed for their street. (Rick Conrad photo)

Residents on a busy street in Liverpool are concerned it will only get more hectic if a 24-unit apartment building is built in their neighbourhood.

About a dozen people presented a petition to regional council on Tuesday and spoke against the development planned for 48 Bristol Ave., during the meeting’s regular time for public comments or questions.

They say they have 35 signatures of residents upset that the proposed four-storey building is too big for the area. They are worried about increased traffic, motorist and pedestrian safety and increased noise. 

They say the design doesn’t fit with the character of the many historical homes in the area. And they’re also concerned that existing water and sewer services can’t handle up to 100 new residents. 

Tony Flint, who lives right across from the proposed development, organized the petition. He told councillors on Tuesday that it would be a mistake to allow the development to go ahead. 

“I think a 24-unit, four-storey building with the potential of housing as many as 100 people and 50 vehicles is way too much for the footprint of the real estate,” Flint said in an interview after the meeting. “It’s just an inadequate property to handle a building of this nature.”

Bristol Avenue is a busy thoroughfare into and out of Liverpool. The two-lane road is the main access to and from downtown Liverpool. If you live in downtown Liverpool, Western Head or Mersey Point, it’s the most direct route to get to many services like the town’s two grocery stores, Queens Place Emera Centre and gas stations, or to get onto Highway 103.

There is no sidewalk on the side of the road where the development is proposed. It’s currently undeveloped green space with mature chestnut trees. The 6,720 square-foot building would be set back 10 feet from the street, with 24 parking spots behind and on the side of the building. The lot is about 36,000 square feet.

As part of the site plan approval process, residents within 100 feet of the development were notified by the municipality in a letter dated June 19. According to a letter from development officer Mike MacLeod, they had 14 days to appeal.

Mayor Darlene Norman said Wednesday that councillors found out about the development last week when they received their meeting package.

“There’s a process for appealing. They write a letter to the planner stating that they wish to appeal and then they give their reasons of which they’re appealing. And it has to be based on the criteria that the site plan was approved on.

“Unless there are appellants, unless people within the 100 feet of the subject property make application to be an appellant and to appeal the site plan approval then there is nothing council can do at this time.”

Norman said the proposed building meets the zoning requirements. She added that staff take a serious look at new developments to ensure they follow the municipality’s land use bylaws.

“People don’t understand that council do not have the ability to simply shut down stuff just because people don’t like it. We have to live within the rules that we’ve established.

Flint said he wrote a letter to MacLeod objecting to the proposal. He said that he and his neighbours believed they were getting their appeal on Tuesday, with the petition and speaking to council.

“But we presented the petition and what they do about it, yeah, I would consider that’s a written appeal,” Flint said Wednesday.

“We would like to proceed and continue further if necessary. Whether we’re beating our head against a brick wall, we don’t know. We all feel like we accomplished something by bringing it to the council’s attention. And there were several people that were completely unaware of it.”

Carolyn Campbell is another Bristol Avenue resident who also expressed her opposition Tuesday about the new building.

“I’m concerned that it could possibly be a death trap. As far as I know, there’s only one entrance off of Bristol and they all have to come out the same way. … If there’s a fire or if there’s an emergency vehicle needing to get in there, it could be bad.”

She and others worry about increased congestion caused by this development and a 45-unit building under construction behind Bristol Avenue on Mersey Avenue.

Janet Perry said residents agree with the need for more housing in Liverpool, just not in that location.

“We all live in close proximity to each other and we’re all going to be facing that building. The traffic is horrendous on that street, the noise is horrendous. There’ll be so many other things happening. … Garbage pickup in the mornings, can you imagine how long there are going to be trucks parked on the street? It’s just going to be a nightmare. I’m sure there’s another site (where) it can be built. We’re not opposed to housing, we’re just opposed to that location.”

Norman said that if the development goes ahead, a new council may decide to address any traffic issues that arise. 

“It always has been and it always will be a busy street. If these apartments are built and it’s deemed that there’s a need to put a crosswalk, there’s a need to put streetlights to improve traffic flow … then I’m certain that council at the time will do those things. But at this point in time, we are going through the process as it is.”

Email: rickconradqccr@gmail.com

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Ex-educator Terry Doucette announces bid for Region of Queens mayor

Liverpool resident Terry Doucette declared his bid on Tuesday for mayor of the Region of Queens. (Rick Conrad)

A former teacher wants to be the next mayor of the Region of Queens.

Terry Doucette retired in 2015 after 37 years as a teacher and school and school board administrator. He declared his intention at a council meeting on Tuesday during the public comments portion.

In an interview afterward, Doucette, who lives in Liverpool, said he’s running because he wants to see a number of concerns and priorities addressed in the next four years.

He said some of those are housing, senior care and the environment.

“In addition to that, we have a new mill being proposed through the province of Nova Scotia. And I’m excited about the potential for that. That will create the need for environmental sensitivity as well as labour-related benefits for our community. I watched Bowater Mersey over my time. … I know people who worked there with good wages. And I think if it comes this way … if they can assure us it’s going to be an environmental plus, I think the community would support that.

“And I realize that housing is the No. 1 concern for our residents. Seniors, young people, the demand for more apartments, the increase in rents has created a crisis.”

So far, the only other person running for mayor is Scott Christian. He announced in November that he was vying for the top elected spot in Queens County.

Christian is a business consultant who is also the former chairman of the Queens Daycare Association.

Another candidate had declared his intention to run, but has since thrown his support behind Christian. James Grant, a former business owner from Milton, said he would drop out of the race if somebody else ran that he could support.

Queens Mayor Darlene Norman has not said whether she will seek re-election. 

For his part, Doucette said Tuesday that there wasn’t one single issue that made him decide to run. And he declined to assess the job of the current council.

“I know there are always dissensions when people are in the position to govern locally or provincially or federally. As a mature person, I believe in communication, I believe in moderation, I believe in conflict resolution. I have a lot of leadership skills from my past. People have to come together and share their views and this is a place on the council to share those views. At the end of the day, we’re all here and running for the same reasons, which is to respect what the people want.”

In his time as an educator, Doucette says he’s lived and worked all over Queens County. He’s also volunteered with the board of Queens Manor and run a property management company.

“I’m not running against anybody, I’m running for something,” he said. “I’m running for the people in North Queens, I’m running for the people in South Queens, I’m running because I’ve been into all the communities. I’ve worked with the people, people know me and I’m asking for a chance and some support.”

There’s still lots of time for others to join the race for mayor and the rest of council. The election is on Oct. 19, with the second Tuesday in September, or Sept. 10, set for candidates to file their nomination papers.

This year, for the first time, people will be able to vote in person, online or by phone.

Email: rickconradqccr@gmail.com

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Deficit forces Queens Home Support to cancel home-care contract

The board that operates Region of Queens Home Support in Liverpool has given notice that it will terminate its contract with the Nova Scotia government to provide home-care services. (Rick Conrad)

UPDATED 2:30 p.m. Tuesday

A non-profit group that delivers home-care services in Queens County has decided to terminate its contract with the provincial government partly because of a “substantial” deficit.

Region of Queens Home Support has been providing services like personal care, respite care and meal preparation for people in their homes for more than 40 years.

The Queens Home for Special Care Society operates the agency. The board gave six months’ notice recently to the province that it would no longer run it. That means a new provider needs to take over by January.

But Christopher Clarke, the society’s chairman, says its 174 clients in Queens and Lunenburg counties won’t see an interruption in service, and employees will keep their jobs.

“For the clients, it will mean they will continue to get service,” Clarke said Monday in an interview.

“We have a strong commitment from government that they will continue to get service. For the employees, they will be working for another employer, but they will be providing service to the same clients as we currently have.”

A Facebook post from someone who said they have worked with Queens Home Support for more than 20 years was widely shared on Monday. She said she is a continuing care assistant and that staff were told on July 4 that Queens Home Support would be closing.

“Let me be clear before I say what’s on my mind – to any clients or family with clients under Queens Home Support – the transition is supposed to be smooth without much upset to the (clients’) routines, themselves or their daily care,” the post said in part. “They will continue to receive care as usual.”

The post also claimed that Queens Home Support’s deficit is $1.5 million.

Clarke confirmed that the agency has run a deficit the past two years. But he said that it isn’t as high as $1.5 million.

“We have a deficit, yes. The number is incorrect, but we have a deficit. I’m not going to go into that. It’s substantial, so we have to work through that with government.”

He said the deficit is one of many reasons why the board decided to end its contract with the province. 

“There were a number of other problems too, but that’s the main issue that caused us to make the decision,” he said.

“I’m not prepared to go into them in any sort of detail.”

Much of the funding for Region of Queens Home Support comes from the province. Based on clients’ income and the kind of care they need, other costs may be paid by the client.

Clarke said the agency’s income dropped because their service hours decreased, but its expenses didn’t.

“We got compensated on the basis of service hours, those are hours that we actually service our clients. But there are a lot of overheads in addition to that, and those overheads don’t change even though your service hours diminish.”

Clarke emphasized that clients will continue to get care. And he said the approximately 60 employees will retain their jobs. 

“Government has assured us that they will continue to provide the services we provide under another agency. … And the employees will all be virtually employed by whatever the new agency is.”

Kim Silver, director of home and community care with the provincial Department of Seniors and Long-Term Care, said Monday that when an agency notifies the province it’s winding down, officials immediately start looking for options to ensure services are maintained.

“Obviously, it’s concerning for clients and staff. For clients, they should know that there will be no impact to their care. The acting administrator has been in there for a little while now. She knows the organization well and she’ll continue to operate that organization until there’s a solid plan in place where we can seamlessly transition clients. In terms of staff, the plan certainly includes considerations for staff. We want to make sure everyone is treated fairly.”

Annette Hartlen, the agency’s executive director, is on leave. Kerry Hobbs, executive director of Lunenburg Home Support, is the interim director in Queens.

“We have options thankfully,” Silver said. “We’ve got a number of agencies in the province. Typically, we would have conversations with ones that make sense to see if they would be interested in taking over geographies. … We’re looking at other agencies in the area to support the clients.”

Silver said various factors could contribute to a reduction in service hours.

“Agencies are funded based on the number of service hours that they deliver on an hourly basis. So if service hours are lower, the funds the agency’s paid are lower. It could be a drop in clients, it could be that some clients have different care needs that might take a different amount of time. It could be that there’s more travel time involved. There are a whole lot of factors that can play into it.”

As for Queens Home Support’s deficit, Silver said that will be worked out between the province and the organization.

“It’s really about the sustainability of the organization. It’s a deficit that’s built up over time and would continue to be added to if the agency kept going.”

Queens MLA Kim Masland posted to her Facebook page on Tuesday morning and said that she’s working to make sure there’s no interruption in service.

“I commit to updating the community frequently as plans become finalized,” she said. “I want to be very clear that government did not cut funding!”

Clarke said that cancelling the home-care agreement was a tough decision for the board to make.

“Obviously, it’s not a decision that the board made lightly and obviously none of us feel good about it, but it’s something we had to do.”

Silver said they should have more information for clients and staff in the next few weeks.

“We’re working with the board to put a plan in place, to make sure people continue to get care, and that employees are treated fairly. Our primary focus obviously is our commitment to client care, so we’re working on solutions to make sure that we can continue that and have a smooth transition.”

Most of the agency’s clients live in Queens County, but a few live in neighbouring Lunenburg County. Clarke said that’s left over from when the agency had too many employees for its Queens County clients, so it took on some from the county next door.

Email: rickconradqccr@gmail.com

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Liverpool emergency department on reduced hours Saturday to Tuesday

Sign points to hospital emergency room entrance

Queens General Hospital. Photo Ed Halverson

UPDATED 3:53 p.m. Friday

The emergency department at Queens General Hospital in Liverpool will be on reduced hours from Saturday to Tuesday.

The ER will be closed from 5 a.m. Saturday (July 6) to 8 a.m. Sunday. It will close again at 1:30 p.m. Sunday and reopen Tuesday (July 9) at 8 a.m.

The emergency department at South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater will be open.

Patients of Queens Family Health can access the same-day clinic through the week, depending on provider availability, by calling 902-354-3322.

Brooklyn’s Sarah Mitton tops Canadian field to qualify for Olympics in Paris

Sarah Mitton was tops in the shot put at the Canadian Athletics trials in Montreal last week. The four-time Canadian champion is headed to the Summer Olympics in Paris. (Mundo Sport Image via Athletics Canada Facebook)

Queens County Olympian Sarah Mitton is on her way to Paris.

The 28-year-old world champion shot putter from Brooklyn qualified recently for the Canadian track and field team that will be going to the Summer Olympics July 26 to Aug. 11. 

Her throw of 19.62 metres at the Canadian Olympic trials secured her fourth straight Canadian title.

She owns the world’s longest throw this year and a Canadian record at 20.68 m.

Mitton set that mark in March when she captured gold at the World Athletics Indoor Championship in Glasgow. She is also a Commonwealth Games champion, a Pan American Games champion and a silver medallist at the world championships.

In early June, she also captured top spot at the World Athletics Continental Tour in New York City, with a top throw of 20.15 m, beating her closest competitor by more than a metre.  

“This time, it just feels totally different,” Mitton said in a Canadian Olympic team news release. “We’re preparing more for a medal, and that’s just a totally different feeling going into the Games.

“I feel very confident. A lot has changed since I went to the Olympics last time during COVID. I’m excited to have a crowd. I’m excited to have my family there. I’m just excited about taking the whole thing in.”

Mitton made her Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020. She told QCCR in March just after winning the world indoor gold medal that she’s matured as a competitor since her first Olympics, and that she’s ready for Paris.

“I think shot put is really this unique sport where as you get older you can still get better,” she said.

“So I think I’m kind of coming into my prime as a thrower. It’s a very technical, very strength-based event. So the stronger you get the better, which takes time. The technical aspect is just so fine-tuned that I’ve got so many throws under my belt and then so many throws in these major competitions now, that I think being able to take away from everything is just building that consistency and then building that confidence amongst the higher-level comps. Being able to handle myself more as a professional as opposed to a rookie thrower who perhaps gets nervous prior to the competition. And I’m able to keep my composure.”

The women’s Olympic shot put qualification round is on Aug. 8, with the final the next day.

Email: rickconradqccr@gmail.com

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Nova Scotia expanding access to YourHealthNS app provincewide

Michelle Thompson, Nova Scotia’s health and wellness minister, announces at a news conference on Wednesday that the YourHealthNS app will be expanded to all Nova Scotians over 16. (Communications Nova Scotia via Zoom)

The Nova Scotia government is expanding access to a $15-million smartphone app that lets patients see their own medical records.

The government gave early access to 13,824 patients in six clinics around the province from January to April to the YourHealthNS app. One of those clinics was Queens Family Health in Liverpool.

After gathering feedback from users in the pilot, it announced Wednesday that anyone over 16 with a valid Nova Scotia health card can now download the app and access its features.

The biggest draw of the app is the ability for people to access their own medical records, prescriptions, lab and test results and immunizations. It also allows you to see your hospital, clinic or other medical appointments.

Patients can also schedule some appointments through the app.

Michelle Thompson is Nova Scotia’s health and wellness minister. She said the app helps give Nova Scotians control over their own health care.

“We started small with a test-and-try approach, but the results were huge,” Thompson said at a Wednesday news conference. “Those who used it liked it. It improved their health care experience, gave them more control over their care, but most importantly, it put health care back in their hands.

“You can now carry your medical history in your pocket wherever you go.”

Officials with Nova Scotia Health told reporters at a technical briefing that more than 300,000 Nova Scotians have already downloaded the app.

Of the pilot project participants, 98 per cent said they would continue to use the app, while 30 per cent said they felt they didn’t need to see their primary care provider because they had access to their records. 

Officials could not say how many people actually used the app. They said that because of privacy concerns, they did not track individual users and how they used the app. The information came from a voluntary feedback survey in the app. Officials did not know how many people responded to the survey.

“We know from our evaluation here but also from other jurisdictions around the world, this empowers patients,” said Dr. Aaron Smith, medical executive director, Northern Zone, and provincial medical executive director. 

This allows patients to manage their own health. And the impact on providers is also profound. We know folks feel more engaged in their health, they better understand their health. It allows a significant numbers of folks to avoid unnecessary visits to both emergency department and primary care facilities. It allows physicians to really focus on what they need to do, which is care of acutely ill people.”

The YourHealthNS app has cost the government $15 million in total, with $2 million of that spent on the pilot project and another $3 million for the rollout to all of Nova Scotia.

Officials said Wednesday that protecting people’s privacy was one of their primary concerns.

“We are ensuring that people’s information is safe and citizens can see their own information and other than a few folks who will do audit functions to ensure everything is fine, there will be nobody else that can see that information,” Thompson said.

During the pilot phase, some participants in Queens County said that they either had no information available or the information they saw changed from day to day. Others said they could see all their records.

Scott McKenna, chief information officer for Nova Scotia Health, said that everybody should be able to see their health records now.

“Those are the lessons we’ve learned from the pilot. Now we’ve matched records a little bit differently, put some new algorithms in place to make sure we’re matching records based with a high level of confidence on health card number and date of birth. … Those individuals would see their health records now.” 

Thompson said she’s confident that people will see information that’s reliable and up to date.

“The point of a test and try is that we bring individuals into the pilot. We understand the technology, we understand the interface with the people who are using the technology and we build on their feedback and their experience.

“We’re very grateful to those initial pilot participants. It really gave us the opportunity to understand the app, build the app, get their feedback, see what the experience was and move on from there. And so I feel very confident in the team and their ability to continue to deliver the iterations of this app. And I do believe the app will be of huge benefit to Nova Scotians.”

More records like primary care visits with doctors, nurse practitioners or through pharmacy clinics will be added over the coming months, Thompson said, with the goal of having all of that information available by the end of September.

Email: rickconradqccr@gmail.com

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Hundreds line Liverpool streets for Privateer Days parade

A colourful parade float with a huge clock with the words 'I'm late! I'm late!' on top and a large yellow teapot, with children and adults dancing around it.

A float from the Mersey Rose Theatre Company promoting the youth musical Alice in Wonderland, Jr., was one of the top floats in the Privateer Days parade on Saturday. (Rick Conrad)

Hundreds of people from around Nova Scotia lined the streets of downtown Liverpool on Saturday for the Privateer Days Parade.

It was part of the 39th annual Privateer Days celebration which began Friday.

The two-day festival featured the parade as well as a food and vendor market, amusement park rides and lots of other activities around town.

Float winners were:

1st place: Funky Witches of the Mist
2nd place: Mersey Rose Theatre Company
3rd place: Mersey Seafoods

Listen below for some of the sounds and reaction from the parade on Saturday



Small community, big impact: Seaside Centre celebrates success after closure close call

Kristopher Snarby, president of the Seaside Centre in Beach Meadows, says volunteers and the community have helped revitalize the community centre. (Rick Conrad)

Volunteers in the Beach Meadows area have revitalized their local community centre, bringing it back from the brink just two and a half years ago.

When a new board of directors took over the Seaside Centre in Beach Meadows in November 2021, many in the community feared it would close.

But in the time since, the centre has reclaimed its integral place in the community. 

Kristopher Snarby is president of the Seaside Centre. He was one of those new board members. 

“We came into a situation where people were tired and they just couldn’t keep going with the way things were. And we had a group of energetic people step in. The community made it clear they wanted to keep the building. We had a huge turnout at that meeting. It was evident from that that people wanted to make sure that we kept this facility in the community.”

Over the past couple of years, board members and other volunteers have raised thousands of dollars to renovate the centre. It’s now holding more regular community events and even has a couple of regular tenants renting space to help pay the bills.

They have installed new insulation and heat pumps throughout the facility to make it more energy efficient. And they plan this year to install a new metal roof and metal siding to help it withstand the harsher weather conditions on the coast.

They also invested $80,000 in a new generator to make the building a comfort centre during periods like hurricanes or power outages.

“These projects are huge capital projects that in theory should take a long time to achieve and we’ve done a lot in the short term. … That’s almost $300,000 in capital improvements to the centre in two or three years. So it’s been busy and we’re investing in the centre to ensure it keeps on going for a long time and it’s really positive.”

The centre held its annual general meeting this week, where the board highlighted some of the successes of the past year. The facility recorded a $28,842 surplus last year.

Snarby says the Seaside Centre wouldn’t have been able to do it without its group of about 100 volunteers and the community’s support. More than half of its revenue comes from fundraising and individual donations.

“We’ve had huge amounts of support both in terms of volunteer hours but also donations. We’ve gotten donations anywhere from $20 to $1,000 or $5,000. So we’ve had big donations, small donations. It all goes into the pot to make that happen. Without that, none of this would have been achievable. All of our grants have required 20 to 25 per cent contribution from the community. Every event we’ve had people are super generous with donations and coming out to support the centre.”

“The community support it’s allowing to push through and really get this done.”

He said after the work on the exterior of the building this year, the next long-term project may be to update their kitchen facilities. 

“And then also just continuing to put on events and to be a place where people can come and gather. We have weekly groups that get together for yoga, for crafting, quilting. We’d like to expand that into some other weekly groups that attend here and just have more events for the community.”

Snarby says they’re always looking for more volunteers or for people to put on more events at the centre. You can find more information at their website at seasidecentre.ca or by joining their Facebook group.

Email: rickconradqccr@gmail.com

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Two Brooklyn residents charged with drug offences in East Berlin break-in

(Photo via RCMP NS Facebook page)

Queens District RCMP have charged two people with multiple charges after a break and enter in East Berlin that led to a drug seizure.

Officers responded to a call in progress on April 23 at 6:40 p.m. at a cottage on East Berlin Road. Initially, police were told the owner had gone to the cabin and found an unknown car in the driveway and at least one person inside the building.

RCMP arrested two people in the cottage: a 37-year-old man and a 34-year-old woman, both from Brooklyn.

They seized the pair’s vehicle, an Audi S4, and released the suspects while they investigated.

Officers executed a search warrant on the vehicle on June 4 and found bear mace, a knife, a machete, and drugs believe to be cocaine and crack cocaine, as well as drug paraphernalia.

James Mathew Stewart is charged with:

  • break and enter with intent
  • mischief under $5,000
  • possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking
  • three counts of possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose 

Angel Dawn Patterson is charged with:

  • break and enter with intent
  • mischief under $5,000
  • possession of a controlled substance

Both Stewart and Patterson are due to appear in Bridgewater provincial court on Aug. 28, at 9:30 a.m.