Nova Scotia

Premier set to discuss Nova Scotia Guard with volunteer organizations

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston will be holding virtual town hall meetings Sunday evening to start to sell volunteer organizations on his plans to create the Nova Scotia Guard — a pool of volunteers to assist during and after emergencies.

Just prior to the end of the spring sitting of the legislature, Houston introduced a bill to create a new Department of Emergency Management, a replacement for the existing Emergency Management Office.

The proposed law would also establish the Nova Scotia Guard.

Houston explained the intent of the Guard, but some longtime search and rescue volunteers questioned the value of creating a new body when their organizations were starved for resources.

“To be honest, I felt like somebody gave me a slap in the face as a search and rescue person,” said Ron Jeppesen,  the volunteer president of the Eastern Shore Ground Search and Rescue.

Sherry Veinot, president of the association that represents the 23 volunteer search and rescue teams in the province, called it “a shock, for sure.”

Both said whatever money or resources were being devoted to the new organization would be better spent helping organizations that already respond to emergencies.

‘Very positive thing’

But Houston has defended the Nova Scotia Guard as “a very, very positive thing.” He said “there’s room for every single Nova Scotian in the Nova Scotia Guard.”

He said he was willing to discuss it but that he hopes they would “bring something meaningful to the table.”

According to a government spokesperson, 350 organizations have been invited to one of two virtual town hall meetings on Sunday.

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Former deputy minister Sandra McKenzie will be taking part, along with Houston. The governing PCs are paying her $850 a day to consult with volunteers and help design the Nova Scotia Guard.

“It’s really that planning in advance that’s going to make sure that we have a very, very effective, efficient and timely response in an emergency,” McKenzie said in a recent interview. “The idea is to go out now and to figure out how we can work well together.”

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