Baillie, province in war of words over River Hebert

Darrell Cole
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Tory leader says school delay tied to paper mill deal in Port Hawkesbury

PC Party Leader and Cumberland South MLA Jamie Baillie and Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald are exchanging words over continued delays to the renovations at River Hebert District High School.

AMHERST – The delayed renovation to River Hebert District High School is the source of tug of war between the province and Conservative Party Leader Jamie Baillie.

The Tory leader and Cumberland South MLA wants to know why the NDP government is using school construction money to buy land as part of the NewPage/Stern deal in Port Hawkesbury.

“In River Hebert students are going to school in a construction zone because the NDP tells them there isn’t enough money to finish their school,” Baillie said. “Now we know why, because they’re using money for schools to give to Stern for their mill.

Baillie points to the government’s financial update, released Tuesday, that says the land purchase is almost entirely offset by reduced capital spending by the Department of Education for renovations and by the Department of Health and Wellness for IT projects.

“The priorities of the NDP are upside down. This is exactly what I mean when I say they are mismanaging this province,” Baillie said.

Baillie also questioned delays with the West Highlands Elementary School project in Amherst and suggested this area’s MLA, Brian Skabar, should be questioning what’s taking so long.

The West Highlands project was announced in December 2010 but was delayed when the province rejected the school board’s preferred sites. The Chignecto-Central board is supposed to make new recommendations early next month.

Baillie said the province knew in the spring that tenders for River Hebert came in much higher than budgeted. He said six months is an unacceptable delay.

“Those schools are where we educate our children for the jobs of tomorrow,” he said. “To take from them to fund the corporate giveaways of the NDP is wrong. They’ll say those projects are all delayed for legitimate reasons, but say what they will, it doesn’t change the fact that students in River Hebert are going to school in a construction zone.”

Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald said it’s wrong for Baillie to put one area of the province against the other. She said changes in the province’s financial update can be partially attributed to school site selection taking longer than initially planned.

“He is totally wrong. His allegation doesn’t have any basis in fact whatsoever,” MacDonald said. “There were tenders called for River Hebert, but they came in 40 per cent over the estimated cost. Subsequently, we’re taking a look at it more closely and that accounts for the delay.

“I totally understand that parents are frustrated with the delay. We are frustrated with the delay, but as a former minister of health who walked into a big mess around the Colchester hospital where none of the due diligence had been done by the previous government with which Jamie Baillie has a close association, I find it a bit hypocritical that he’s questioning why we would do due diligence. It’s important that when we develop our budgets that we stay inside them unless there’s a compelling reason not to do so.”

The minister said money for River Hebert has not been taken away or diverted to the Port Hawkesbury mill.


Organizations: NDP, River Hebert District High School, Conservative Party Tory Department of Education Department of Health and Wellness West Highlands Elementary School Chignecto-Central board Colchester hospital

Geographic location: River Hebert, Port Hawkesbury, AMHERST

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Recent comments

  • dave
    September 28, 2012 - 18:20

    I am willing to give the first person who can list off 5 things that John has done to help the River /Joggins area in the past 3 years twenty dollars . I think it will be easier to list 5 things we lost.

  • River resident
    September 28, 2012 - 12:48

    If we had a political member that really meant what he said,he would not waite until a story and picture appears in the local paper.Do you think Dexter or Baillie care about our school or our children,if they did the school would be built or at lease started .We need someone who lives in the are who knows what living in the country village is all about.All this talk does not get the school started.

  • Marie Dempsey
    September 28, 2012 - 08:27

    Bill - John Reid doesn't seem to have done too much so far.

  • Equally Frustrated Parent
    September 27, 2012 - 10:34

    Why did they start this if they couldn't follow through? Has anyone ever tried to live through a home renovation, even a small one? The school lost the cafeteria, offices, labs and locker rooms/storage. Every available space in both schools is jammed with "stuff". Programs have been cut. Enough is enough! We just want what every other school has. To quote one of the Chignecto-Central Regional School Boards goals "to create a safe, supportive and socially just learning environment for each student in Chignecto-Central Regional School Board". They are failing us and we all deserve better.

  • bill
    September 27, 2012 - 09:13

    all you people from river hebert just listen to the people on here they are just looking for votes you people voted the liberals out then river hebert started falling people of this village must suffer if people would vote john reid back in they may have some hope of fight this project out

  • Janet Wilson
    September 27, 2012 - 08:42

    Somewhere, someone had to approve this tender. Somwhere, someone had to sign off on this tender. Would it have been someone at the head of Operational Services for the Chignecto Central Regional School Board? Somewhere, someone on the CCRSB knows all about this. Have they been asked about this mess that the students of RHDH have to attend school in? Let the newspaper go inside the school and film a day, especially a RAINY day at RHDH. Ask Operational Services of CCRSB about this tender and the mess of RHDH. All the pertinent numbers and names are available on the CCRSB website.

  • Springhiller
    September 27, 2012 - 07:33

    Mr. Baillie should know all about making committments and not following through. After all it is the Conservatives that decided not to go with their committment in building the Jail announced for Springhill but did not follow up with the paper work. Now where is it Um. I agree the River Hebert School should be an on going committment. What is the air quality they must live with 6 hours a day. Find the funds! The School in Amherst must have a location first. Great minds working together could find a good location suiting all. Just my opinion.

  • reg
    September 27, 2012 - 06:32

    It appears the River Hebert school project has become a political football with the pc leader trading remarks with government officials. However it is apparent to anyone that there has been a long delay on this school over an amount of money that pales when compared with the recent Port Hawkesberry situation. The fact is that this takes place in northern Nova Scotia, where the population is small and in an area that does not receive a lot of government attention. Another example is the recent rewarding to Windsor a government office for tourism, when Amherst is the gateway to 90% of all tourist to Nova Scotia. The children and their families in the River Hebert area deserve, and should expect better treatment from their government; which should represent their interest as well as other more populated areas of the province.

  • Dave Le Blanc
    September 27, 2012 - 06:02

    I,m not sure what MacDonald is talking about .From where I sit in River Hebert I think Jamie hit the nail square on the head.Can anyone tell me how much money Dexter and NSP has given the paper mill. By my calculation the government has given them between 3hundred million and 5hundred million. The 2.4 million to finish the school in River Hebert does not seem like much money. Dexter is the one putting one area of the province against the other.

  • Arthur Yurnbull
    September 27, 2012 - 05:01

    If Jamie Baillie wants to make a comment about public education in this area shouldn’t he at least have his children in our local schools? Is it true that his kids are in a private school in Halifax? Where is that house he should to have in this riding? If I were in Halifax today, could he give me directions from Oxford to the River Hebert High School? And if he cares about our kids, why is he missing from the picture of this school?

  • Fuzzy Bear
    September 26, 2012 - 23:01

    Here we are again...a political whitewashing for River Hebert, Amherst, and Springhlill etc.... the list for injustices and mistreatments for our area just goes on and on! Please wake up Northern Nova Scotian's. This is not new treatment by the NDP, but has been going on for years and years and years under every parties rule. This province has always stopped at Truro so why do we continue to accept being second class citizens? When will we say enough is enough, and have our local municipal politicians demand that Nova Scotians from Cumberland Co. be treated fairly by every provincial party wanting to be re-elected.If our elected mayors, councillators and MLA's don't stand up for our area who will? Our local mayors,councillors, and MLa's should be screaming and demanding answers from whatever party is in power when injustices like this occur!. As provincial voters going forward, everyone should ask that same question to the next canditate who approaches them come next provencial election, I know I will. Do not accept the typical retoric and BS they feed you about how their wonderful party policies for this and that are, Demand how they will show their loyality to us and how they will represent this area, not Cape Breton, Halifax, New Glasgow or Pictou! Be very specific and ask just what they will do for us up here. If they will not sacrifice their time or even career then tell them you will vote for someone else!

  • Mike McLellan
    September 26, 2012 - 21:33

    Thank You Jamie for speaking on behalf of the River Hebert area. We greatly apperciate the effort you are putting towards this issue, I'm certain the students and staff of River Hebert District High apperciate it as well.

  • frustrated parent
    September 26, 2012 - 21:23

    "Compelling reasons not to do so" Really !!!!! Our kids are attending a school that looks like it is in a war torn country !!!!! And to top it off they are now putting Tar paper on our Tar Paper Shack !!!! More money spent on a band aid for our school. I am so disappointed in the way our students and staff are being treated. We aren't asking for the moon. We want what was promised to us. One would think that once the destruction our our school was started that it is only fair to finish it !!!!! Finish what you started. These students are the future of our country, please let them know how valueable they are to us . Give them a reason to be proud .

  • Susan
    September 26, 2012 - 19:15

    You know when election time is just around the corner.You have Mr.Dexter giving money away like chicken feed and Mr.Baillie jumping on every topic he reads in the paper,where was he all during the construction period this year???