October 13 2021
More dialogue needed around spaceport project
Whether the proposed rocket launch facility for the Canso area takes off or not, more dialogue and information sharing is needed in the weeks and months ahead. The two open houses held last week were important events – both for Maritime Launch Services to bring partners together and answer questions, and for protestors to make their opposition known.
But the two sides, for the most part, remained on opposite sides of the door to the Canso-Hazel Hill Volunteer Fire Department in Canso. There was very little communication between them.
Residents and others following the plans have heard criticisms of the project from those opposed – including legitimate questions around safety and approvals – and from the company about their ongoing work to meet a long list of conditions for environmental approval (EA) from the province.
Cape Breton-Canso MP Mike Kelloway points out in this week’s lead story that more needs to be done to bring the two sides together for dialogue. The idea has merit. That’s not to suggest that any specific concerns and criticisms would be dismissed by doing so, but it would be an opportunity for specific questions to be put to the project proponents, and for MLS to answer those questions. Whether the answers would be direct, complete and satisfactory enough for those opposed is impossible to predict at this point – there remain many gaps and concerns following answers given so far.
Those concerns range from expectations of the local volunteer fire department in emergency response to what remains to be done in meeting environmental approval conditions.
Keeping the community informed is vital as plans for this new industry progress. That means more transparency from both the company and the provincial government around EA conditions and residents’ safety concerns.
Part-time ER is not acceptable
The emergency department at Sheet Harbour’s Eastern Shore Memorial Hospital is closed almost 50 per cent of the time. It has become, essentially, a part-time ER. That’s unacceptable. And government can do more to fix the problem.
While the hospital is plagued by the same doctor shortage facing rural hospitals throughout Nova Scotia, it has the added barrier of not actually being classified as a rural hospital, when it comes to incentives to attract doctors and nurses to rural areas. That, in short, is ridiculous. And fixing the problem is long overdue.
We wrote about this issue following an interview with then-senator Tom McInnis several years ago. McInnis, now president of the local Chamber of Commerce and retired from the Senate, explains the problem in this week’s page one story. Sheet Harbour is part of HRM, and therefore recognized as an urban area by the Canada Student Loan program. That means doctor and nurse recruits to the area are not eligible for the loan forgiveness program for healthcare professionals going to serve rural and remote communities – a $40,000 incentive for new doctors.
Seeing this urban designation continue today is a disgrace. We can’t fix the doctor shortage problem overnight, but government can make this bureaucratic change now and remove this significant barrier that is part of the problem on the Eastern Shore.