Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Editor’s note: As you may have noticed, Fast & Curious is being published on a Friday. It’s an experiment to see if it a) works for my readers and b) works for me. Feel free to send me your thoughts.


Port Hawkesbury Man

Does it really make sense to refer to Joe Shannon as a “Port Hawkesbury man” in a headline as the Cape Breton Post did on 28 March 2017?

Sure, back in 2016 when he was inducted into the Cape Breton Philanthropy Hall of Fame, Shannon described himself as “just a truck driver living in Port Hawkesbury,” but that’s taking humility to the point of absurdity — in fact, that statement approaches “alternative fact” status. As the Post made clear at the time:

Shannon, 76, is president of Atlantic Corp. Ltd., a holding company for his chain of Shannex Health Care nursing homes and trucking company Seaboard Transport Group.

His reach also extends into the information technology, real estate and construction sectors. In all, Atlantic Corp., a privately held company, employs more than 5,000 people.

Yep, just your average, run-of-the-mill truck driver with 5,000 employees and holdings across multiple business sectors.

In fact, the headline (at least, the one online) on that story was not, “Port Hawkesbury man first inductee into Philanthropy Hall of fame” but “Businessman Joe Shannon inducted into Philanthropy Hall of Fame.”

In 2013, when the humble trucker was inducted into the Order of Canada, the headline (again, the online version) was not, “Port Hawkesbury man joins Order of Canada” but “Cape Breton businessman Joe Shannon joins Order of Canada”

And yet, when Shannon is making headlines for something less positive — like, facing allegations he broke political contribution rules — he doesn’t actually make headlines.

Instead, the Post goes with a small sidebar item on the front page under the headline, “Elections watchdog alleges Port Hawkesbury man broke political contribution rules.” (The online version opts for the even less-descriptive “NS man,” putting me in mind of the Onion’s ubiquitous “Area Man.”) The Canadian Press story that follows doesn’t identify Shannon by name until the second paragraph.

I have to think that some other high-profile Cape Bretoners — at least one former university president and an entertainer come to mind — must have read that “Port Hawkesbury man” headline and thought, “Damn, how did he do that?”


Port bored

I can’t believe it: the CBRM has actually named a board to oversee the Port of Sydney Development Corporation (PSDC) and I don’t care.

Port of Sydney Development Corp AGM, 15 December 2016. (l to r: Board chair Michael Merritt, CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke, Port CEO Marlene Usher)

Port of Sydney Development Corp AGM, 15 December 2016. (l to r: Board chair Michael Merritt, CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke, Port CEO Marlene Usher)

That’s because the business that actually needs overseeing — the container terminal project — is no longer the responsibility of the board, it’s being looked after by the CBRM. Who, exactly, in the CBRM is anybody’s guess — Mayor Cecil Clarke? CBRM CAO Michael Merritt? (Who was supposed to remain as Port board chair but has decided to abdicate now that the fun part of the job is gone.) Our new economic development manager, John Phelan? (If so, be careful, John, be very, very careful. You know what happened to the last economic development officer who took on the port file for the CBRM.)

The board was approved at the March 29 meeting of the Regional Council and, according to LocalXpress, it includes “three business people — Elizabeth Brunet, Owen Fitzgerald and Jerry Gillis — along with lawyer John Khattar, marketing professional John Strasser, accountant John Anderson and engineer Lucia MacIsaac.” They’ll replace the fake board, made up of the Mayor, the deputy mayor, and two councilors, which will have been ensconced for two years by the time the new board is in place.

Real board sounds fine. If only it had been put in place two years ago and given some say over the selection of a CEO, the signing of port marketers, the extension of said-port developers’ contract,  the spending of monies left over from the harbor dredge and the hiring of business managers.

Instead, it will oversee the work of a $200,000-a-year CEO who, in turn, oversees a business manager, a general manager, an operations manager and a cruise manager who, in turn, oversee a business that is slated to register a surplus of $70,542.46 in this, a “banner year” for cruise ships.

And according to the Port budget, which was presented to Council by Port general manager Paul Carrigan on behalf of Port CEO Marlene Usher (who was “traveling”), the Port will register a surplus in 2017/18 because a) it’s transferring $200,000 it’s calling “revenue” from the Assumption Fund which contains those leftover dredge funds and b) it hasn’t been paying its rent to the CBRM. (The Port has a 10-year plan to repay the $1.9 million in lease payments owed the municipality, starting this year with a $200,000 payment, but that payment isn’t anywhere to be found in the budget — it’s to come from the Port’s “cash reserves.” Could that mean the Assumption Fund?)

You can view the budget on pages 77 and 78 of the Council Agenda.


Cost of doing business?

By Julius Schorzman (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

(Photo by Julius Schorzman, own work, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Another item that caught my eye was Port board of directors meetings, for which the Port has budgeted $6,000 in 2017/18.

A good chunk of that ($2,667) seems to be intended for the AGM, but each regular meeting has a budget of $667. As they hold the meetings in the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion, we can assume room rental is not an expense. So what do they plan to spend $667 on?

I like to think coffee and donuts: I checked the Tim Hortons menu and calculated that if you spent half on coffee and half on donuts,  you could buy 37 dozen donuts and 166 large coffees.

Assuming the board meetings are attended by the seven directors plus Marlene Usher, then everyone gets 55 donuts and 21 large coffees.

How’s that for a “perk?”



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