After another whirlwind year in which change occurred quickly, and in some instances without warning, come thoughts of what lies ahead for the coming 12 months.
In the absence of provincial or municipal elections this year, one of the biggest stories of 2019 will be the federal election slated for October. Will the second place Conservative Party bleed support to the upstart People’s Party of Canada to the extent that the Liberal Party is handed another majority? And, can the New Democrats and Green Party make enough of a mark on the political landscape to affect the outcome?
Locally, how will this play out for Liberal incumbents Rodger Cuzner and Sean Fraser? Will Central Nova return to its blue roots and will Cape Breton-Canso voters change colours for the first time in two decades?
Another significant story which will play out in this new year is the inquiry which will be held in Guysborough examining the suicide of Canadian Forces veteran Lionel Desmond and the murders of his mother, wife and young daughter. Of particular importance is the role played by local institutions and agencies in the tragic string of events.
Then there are the projects earmarked for the Strait area which made great strides in 2018, and which could take off in the coming 52 weeks, particularly the Melford Atlantic Gateway Project which could sink or swim this year.
There could be big news from LNG projects planned for Goldboro and Point Tupper. After both made progress, and with both close to reality, this could be the year when these highly anticipated projects become official.
After Highland Grow Inc. received approval to sell and distribute their products late last year, they will become the first cannabis producer from the Strait area to get involved in a new industry that holds so much promise.
The Antigonish County operation could soon be joined by The Headland Cultivation Inc. at the Richmond County Industrial Park in Lennox Passage and Breton CannaPharms Ltd. in the former call centre building in Port Hawkesbury.
Hopefully, the investigation into the death of Cassidy Bernard will make progress and those responsible will be brought to justice very soon in 2019. Bernard’s family and supporters, as well as the community of We’koqma’q, have been waiting long enough, and now is the time for results.
Aside from the above reminder of how much work remains in Canada to heal the relationship with Indigenous people, First Nation communities around the Strait area made tremendous strides last year, and this year will be no different.
With Potlotek receiving a new water treatment system, and We’koqma’q getting millions in federal money for its aquaculture operation, one of the most anticipated stories of 2019 will be the new Paq’tnkek Interchange Project and the community’s ambitious and inspiring Bayside Convenience Centre.
In addition to this highway project, hopefully 2019 will mean the continuation of progress toward the complete twinning of Highway 104 between New Glasgow and Antigonish, as well as the continuation of twinning toward the Canso Causeway which is underway and ongoing.
Continuing on the transportation theme, there are strong wishes that lengthy traffic disruptions at the Canso Canal and Canso Causeway will become a thing of the past now that Nova Scotia Power’s line installation across the Strait of Canso is complete. If these traffic jams continue in 2019, officials in charge of the span and swing bridge will have no one else to blame.
Whether 2019 will mean the continuation of the much debated Destination Reeves Street Project is up in the air. With the election of new town councillor Blaine MacQuarrie, who has expressed misgivings about the proposed three-lane configuration, will this put the entire project in jeopardy as town officials have indicated, or will this mean a small tweak to the overall proposal?
In the case of the Arichat streetscape and sidewalk project, Richmond Municipal Council did make a financial commitment, but councillors also broke the project up in two phases, despite the recommendations of project supporters. Will this be the year that the capital of Richmond County will start receiving the amenities many other Nova Scotia communities now take for granted?
In the education sphere, the impact from the dissolution of all English school boards in the province will be felt in the coming year. Whether school advisory councils can effectively fill the gap of elected school boards will be the biggest question.
Then there is the health care system in Nova Scotia. Is this the year the system finally bursts from the stress of inadequate resources and planning, or will the province, replete with new revenue from cannabis sales, decide this is the time to make large scale and strategic investments in a sector in dire need of more money, better facilities and adequate staffing levels?
This is the year for the provincial government to fully commit to fixing healthcare in this province. Waiting any longer would only invite more problems.
What will take place over the next 12 months remains to be seen, but based on the past year, it promises to be the continuation of an exciting era in the Strait area.