Garbage versus Flowers?

CBRM Council last week approved a budget that nixed the 2017/18 heavy garbage pickup while re-upping the CBRM Blossoming Program.

The reason given for canceling heavy garbage — i.e. Cape Breton Christmas — was that the CBRM already provided such a service following the Thanksgiving floods, never mind that the post-flood collection only covered homes in flooded areas or that the pickings were hardly up to heavy-pickup standards (it was like Christmas if Santa were a total jerk who turned a fire hose on your gifts before placing them under the tree).

Heavy garbage (Photo via goCapeBreton

Heavy garbage (Photo via goCapeBreton )

I’ve noted at least one online discussion wondering why heavy garbage got the ax while the Blossoming Program — which sees baskets of flowers hung around the municipality — was retained.

Personally, I was relieved just to see the flower basket program would be the responsibility of the Parks Department in 2017/18 rather than of Business Cape Breton, which had controlled it in 2014/15 and 2016/17. This is a good thing because, as Jennifer Campbell of the CBRM finance department explained to me last summer:

The Downtown Blossoming Project fees include a 10% administration fee. In 2015/16, the Municipality paid the contractor directly and did not advance money to BCB for this project.

By paying the contractor directly in 2017/18, CBRM will save that 10% fee again, so that’s good.


Perennial question

But is the program a reasonable use of public monies? The question reminded me of a discussion I’d had with Roberta Lynch, a candidate for council in the 2016 elections. Lynch said that about 10 years ago, her gardening club went to the municipality to “offer its assistance and advice in designing and planting and caring for the town’s green spaces.”

Lynch said better-planned green spaces would be more sustainable green spaces, featuring perennials instead of annuals, plants requiring less water, even wildflowers (if they’re good enough for New York City’s High Line, they should be good enough for a CBRM traffic island). The CBRM, in that forward thinking little way it has, turned Lynch’s garden club down.

The High Line, NYC (Photo by Kaodro (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

The High Line, NYC. (Photo by Kaodro, own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

But what if the municipality revisited that proposal? I bet the CBRM’s gardeners could come up with some dandy hanging baskets, if you asked them nicely.

That’s one argument for funding the heavy pickup rather than the flower baskets.


Tender issue

Another advantage the heavy garbage program has over the hanging basket program (at least as it was administered by BCB) is that you can see who was awarded the tender for the garbage pickup each year and how much they were paid. This is because the CBRM has a procurement policy which requires that contracts worth $100,000 or more (or construction projects worth $250,000 or more) be advertised on the Provincial Bulletin Board. (In practice the CBRM, which no longer lists tenders on its own web site, seems to advertise less valuable contracts on the provincial site too.)

The CBRM contracts two heavy garbage routes. Route 1 (formerly Routes 1,4 and 5A)  which is basically Sydney and Route 2 (formerly Routes 2,3 and 5B) which is basically Glace Bay. For the rest of the municipality, as Roschell Clarke, solid waste education coordinator for the CBRM, told me:

[T]he contractor responsible for providing the residential curbside collection services (weekly garbage and green cart collection/biweekly blue bag collection), would also be the contractor responsible for completing heavy garbage.


Tender IDAwarded DateAwarded VendorAwarded AmountAward Total
T83-201212 April 2013 Trans Overland (Route 1,4 & 5A)$27,475.23 $78,280.89
Andrew MacDonald (Route 2,3 & 5B)$50,805.66
T76-2013 28 April 2014 Andrew MacDonald - (Route 1,4,5a)$34,985.76$71,841.66
Joe Parsons (Route 2,3,5B)$36,855.90
T02-2015 24 April 2015 Santana Contracting (Route 1, 4 & 5A)$39,358.98$91,274.28
Transoverland (Route 2, 3, & 5B)$51,915.30
T05-201619 April 2016 Santana Contracting (Route 1)37,457.58$86,678.04
B&M Disposal (Route 2)$49,220.46

(Source: Tenders Nova Scotia)

Compare that to the hanging basket program under BCB — the tenders were not posted publicly, so I cannot easily discover who won them or how much successful bidders were paid.  The only documentation I could find of a winner was in the caption of this 2014 photo I found in the BCB website:


Luckily, as stated above, the flower baskets will be the responsibility of the CBRM Parks Department this year, which presumably means the contract will be tendered on the Provincial Bulletin Board.


Bait & Switch

Flowers made from plastic bottles via

Flowers made from plastic bottles via Aunt Peaches

It’s time now to admit that the title of this article is a bait and switch. I’m not actually going to make a choice between flowers and garbage — although I may have found a third way, GARBAGE FLOWERS (see right).

The choice I’m advocating, as always, is between transparency and opacity. Whether it’s a matter of hanging flowers or picking up rusty barbecues, if citizens are footing the bill for it, citizens should be able to monitor the process.






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