A Sunday afternoon march to support a local pharmacy that lost a long-standing nursing home contract to a big corporation, turned into a rally cry for supporting local and preserving rural communities.
“Why are we protesting? Here’s why,” said organizer Maria Hagen as the crowd prepared to march from Bridgetown Pharmasave to Mountain Lea Lodge March 24. “We don’t understand how 53 years of exemplary service and professionalism is negated. We don’t understand how a glowing report was given to Annapolis County council three days prior to this axe falling.”
The Bridgetown Pharmasave was one of several pharmacies to respond to a request for proposals issued in January by the Annapolis County Municipal Housing Corporation that runs Mountain Lea Lodge. Judged through a scoring process in various categories, Lawtons Drugs won the contract.
“Out community deserves better. Much better with more transparency,” Hagen said.
As part of the protest, the group Bridgetown Concerned Citizens issued a letter to the housing corporation and CEO Joyce d’Entrement looking for answers and requesting they re-examine their position.
“To date there has been no acceptable rationale for this decision and how it benefits the clients of the community,” the letter said. “The tender scoring process has been vague with the release of a scoring sheet, that is insulting to Mr. Kirk Lycett, owner of Bridgetown Pharmasave, and to be honest, unfathomable.”
In the scoring process under the category ‘Customer Service’ Lawtons scored 23 out of 25 possible points while Bridgetown Pharmasave scored just 11 out of 25 points.
The Concerned Citizens questioned whether the housing corporation could back those numbers up with legitimate documentation.
“How can a rational person make sense out of the service score awarded to Lawtons being a 23 out of 25, when they have never provided any service to ACMHC,” the letter asked.
D’Entrement said she received the Concerned Citizens’ letter the day of the march but did not want to comment on it.
“This was upsetting to both staff and our residents,” she said of the protest. “We will continue to place the residents at the centre of everything we do as they are always our first priority.”
Dozens of placard-carrying residents met at the Pharmasave at 1 p.m., and after the pep rally by organizers marched almost a kilometre up Church Street to protest in front of Mountain Lea Lodge.
The marchers were accompanied by numerous cars and vans with drivers honking horns and some even sporting signs on their vehicles. Residents came from as far away as Middleton, West Dalhousie, and other locations around the county.
“I love seeing this today,” said Adam Sabean as he prepared the marchers with instructions on protest etiquette. “It’s about time we stand up as a group and find out what’s going on. Money leaving this county has got to stop. It’s got to stop today.”
Bleu Rae, who also helped organize the march, took the bullhorn when the march started and kept people chanting and cheering all the way up Church Street where she kept the momentum going until her voice gave out.
The protest was peaceful and well organized. An RCMP cruiser sat in the parking lot at Mountain Lea Lodge but the lone officer didn’t interfere. Marchers kept to the sidewalks and crosswalks and returned to the downtown where they met at a vacant store opened as a rallying spot for talk and refreshments.
The signs said it all and were later posted on the large windows of the former Adaptations store. The signs said:
‘Support Local Business,’ ‘Support Rural Living,’ ‘Think Community not Dollars,’ ‘We Love Kirk and Pharmasave,’ ‘Support Local Jobs,’ ‘Support our Community Pharmasave who cares for us 24/7,’ ‘Our Community Matters,’ ‘Community First,’ ‘No Matter the Weather Communities Stick Together,’ ‘We Support the Bridgetown Pharmasave – after 50+ years why aren’t you?,’ and ‘Why Aren’t You Supporting Local?’
Just the Beginning
David Cranton, one of the other citizens behind the protest, said the Sunday march was a big success and only the beginning.
“I never expected so many people to show up,” he said. “The support was tremendous. There was a head count done. It was well over 200 people walking alone, plus people in yards, plus cars going by who were supporting us.”
Bridgetown Concerned Citizens won’t stop with the protest.
“This is not the end of it. This is just the beginning,” Cranton said. “Today is the first day of our fight. We’re going to have a public meeting. There’s going to be government officials and members of the Mountain Lea Lodge board invited. Whether they show up or not is their prerogative, but the meeting will still go on. It’s going to be announced at a later date.”
“I’m humbled by the sheer numbers,” said Lycett who had no hand in organizing the protest. “It’s very appreciated. I don’t know if anyone will ever know how appreciated. It’s nice to see the whole community rallying together and supporting us.”