Business 101: Read the Contract

Port of Sydney information session, Port of Sydney annual general meeting, regular CBRM council meeting, (most) irregular CBRM council meeting: oh the wonders I have seen and heard this week.

CBRM Council debates extending HPDP (or SHIP) exclusivity contract, 19 December 2016.

CBRM Council debates extending HPDP (or SHIP) exclusivity contract, 19 December 2016.

I’ve seen what should have been a moving moment — two First Nations chiefs addressing council for the first time — used as a ploy to pressure municipal councilors into approving a contract they weren’t allowed to read.

I saw an MLA speak as himself, but also as an MLA, but also probably as a minister of the provincial government because that’s not a hat you can take off even when the mayor has a thing about ‘no hats in the council chambers.’ (If only he also had a thing about ‘no councilors on the port board.’)

I saw a rookie councilor who is such a quick study, he was able to educate himself on the port file to the point where he just knew that contract he hadn’t read was fine.

I saw a veteran councilor wear his ignorance like a badge of honor.

I saw seats in the “public” gallery of the council chambers reserved for staff and VIPs.

I heard speaker after speaker invoke our unemployment and poverty and outmigration problems as though the question before council was not: ‘Can we get an outside legal opinion on this contract you want us to approve without reading?’ but ‘Do you want to make Deputy Mayor Eldon MacDonald’s grandchildren go out West to work?’

I saw the people in the gallery who applauded councilors questioning the contract extension told to be quiet.

I saw the people in the gallery who applauded the approval of the extension allowed to clap and cheer unchecked.

I saw Mayor Cecil Clarke hug Port CEO Marlene Usher to celebrate the extension of the port marketers’ contract.

I heard Albert Barbusci, our port marketer, tell a radio interviewer his contract had to be extended, sight unseen, for five years, on 24 hours’ notice because his project now has “momentum.”

I looked up momentum:


  1. a property of a moving body that the body has by virtue of its mass and motion and that is equal to the product of the body’s mass and velocity; broadly :  a property of a moving body that determines the length of time required to bring it to rest when under the action of a constant force or moment

I laughed: if this project were as big and as advanced as Barbusci is claiming, its momentum would be such that a month more or less could not possibly slow it down.

I saw councilors take their responsibilities to their constituents seriously and councilors who seemed to think their responsibility was to two “port promoters” who have inserted themselves into the port development process on terms no one — not even council — is allowed to know.

I heard Barbusci claim he and his partner Barry Sheehy have now spent $8 million of their own money promoting the Port of Sydney and I wondered, ‘Is pro bono port marketing really a thing?’

I heard a councilor who opposed extending an exclusivity contract she hadn’t seen describe Monday’s hastily organized “technical briefing” as a “bullying session.”

I heard lawyer Jim Gogan say, repeatedly, that the “definitive” port development contract, should there ever be one, must come to council for approval and all I could think was, ‘If proponents are ready to do this kind of full-court press to get an extension to a promotional contract, can you imagine the pressure that would be brought to bear to ensure approval of a final contract?’