Berthers, Unite!

The Port of Sydney Development Corporation (PSDC) REALLY wants you to turn out on Saturday to stamp your little feet and demand the federal government come through with its share of the funding for our $20 million second cruise berth (which, this week, we’re talking about solely in terms of “cruise and tourism,” although we sometimes talk about all the “other” business this magical piece of infrastructure will attract).

The same organization that held its annual general meeting in the smallest meeting room available¬† (capacity: 90) in the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion on a weekday morning has conveniently scheduled the “Rally to Pressure the Federal Government Into Giving Us $6M” for a Saturday afternoon in (I’m guessing) a much bigger space.

The PSDC took out a big ad in the Cape Breton Post (although paying the Post for positive coverage of the port is like paying Donald Trump to say “dishonest media”) and they’ve paid Facebook to post this, vaguely hysterical, announcement:

Facebook posting by the Port of Sydney

 

I would so like to see the calculations behind that $48 million in new business that’s about to slip through our fingers. I’m betting they will look a lot like the calculations used to determine the “indirect economic impact” of the cruise industry on Cape Breton which — little-known fact — are in contention for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction this year.

I hope the “economic impact” presentation means the PSDC is going to share the results of the economic impact study funded by the province and the feds. We know it exists because CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke acknowledged it in the Post, on January 7, under the headline, “A timeliness and an urgency” (which, oddly enough, is also the name of my Fleetwood Mac tribute album).

The document has not been made public (quelle surprise!) on the grounds that it is not the CBRM’s to share but Clarke said he would “welcome” its release. (I’ve contacted ACOA and the Provincial Transport Department to ask for a copy. They haven’t sent me one yet.)

Why did the mayor not simply get permission to release the report? I have to think that if it made a resoundingly positive case for the second berth, he’d have had copies printed and delivered them personally to every household in the CBRM. On the other hand, he seems congenitally incapable of sharing information, especially when that information is contained in a report paid for by the taxpayers, so perhaps the one factor outweighed the other.

Clarke told the Post the report was favorable but raised a question about possible cost-overruns and “Any overruns on an infrastructure project are always attributed to the applicant, in this case the CBRM.”

So, why are the provincial and federal governments concerned about cost-overruns? And if they’re both concerned, shouldn’t we be concerned too, given that, as I’ve recently learned, “Any overruns on an infrastructure project are always attributed to the applicant, in this case the CBRM?” Is this something to get all pissy about or something to take a careful look at? What if it turns out to be a complicated berth? What if it costs much more than we’ve budgeted?

At the root of this drama is the federal government’s demand that the CBRM install a proper board to oversee the Port of Sydney Development Corporation. I have no problem with this demand because I’ve been demanding the same thing myself since the “interim” port board was installed in April 2015, but the mayor is outraged and he wants you to share his outrage, hence Saturday’s outrage-a-thon.

I’m sure he’ll get a good crowd and I’m sure they will buy his version of events uncritically — people in this town want what The Boss calls “a reason to believe.” They’ll buy whatever kooky numbers the manager for cruise marketing and development Bernadette MacNeil (or as she’s known in the Post, “Bernadette MacDonald”) feeds them. They’ll trust that if we build it, they will come, although the cruise industry will never guarantee us visits, that’s not how they roll.

But I’m tired of playing Cassandra, so I’m going to make my own contribution to Saturday’s rally. I’ve written an appropriate chant for the Berthers. It’s meant to be yelled loudly:

 

Call: WHAT DON’T WE WANT?

Response: GOVERNANCE!

Call: WHEN DON’T WE WANT IT?

Response: NOW!

 

You’re welcome.

 

 

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