All the Port’s ‘Partners’ (And How They’re Paid)

Barry Sheehy and Albert Barbusci of Harbor Port Development Partners (or Sydney Harbour Investment Partners or Blue Zen Memorial Parks) are proud of the many “partners” they’ve enlisted in their campaign to turn Sydney harbor into a mega-port for ultra-large container ships.

They have “building partners” like the “American giant Bechtel.” They have rail partners like Genesee & Wyoming. They even have The Right Honorable Jean Chretien who, we’re assured, believes deeply in the project, on board.

What they’ve also had, through the Port of Sydney Development Corporation, is access to about $2.5 million left over from the dredging of Sydney harbor, money that was supposed to pay for new navigational aids for the deepened channel but that has instead been diverted to “business development.”

What happens when you connect those dots? Well, you discover that Jean Chretien is their “partner” the way Seaside Communications or Bell Aliant is yours — because they’re paying him. And by “they” I don’t mean Harbor Port Development Partners, which is supposedly footing all the bills for this “private sector” project, but the Port of Sydney Development Corporation, using that leftover dredge money — that leftover public money.

The Spectator made a freedom of information/protection of privacy (FOIPOP) request to discover how the leftover dredge monies have been spent to date and here’s what we found out:


The ‘Partners’



Purpose: engineering firm, provided technical information for meetings with stakeholders, attended stakeholder meetings and prepared initial feasibility study.

Bechtel has frequently been referred to as an HPDP  “partner” and its involvement cited as proof of the port project’s viability. Rex Gundle, Bechtel’s senior port and marine project manager, did a CBC interview about the project in December 2015 so glowing, the Port of Sydney quoted him in its mid-2016 project update:

We’re talking about a port that’s ready for construction. The project owner is in possession of all the permits necessary to start construction. It has deep water. It’s two days closer sailing than to New York, three days closer than Virginia. It’s two days closer than Montreal with the ability to handle bigger ships.

And, he could have added:

It’s going to make us some nice coin even if it only ever happens in Albert Barbusci’s head.




Purpose: prepared several reports tailored to target audience, provided research information on shipping patterns from Asia and europe [sic] to North America, attended China meetings.

Industream has also been cited as a “partner,” although no one from the Copenhagen-based company has been trotted out to sing the praises of the Sydney project in my hearing.


Genesee & Wyoming


Purpose: participation in rail strategy for Port

In November 2015, HPDP issued a press release announcing it would be “working together” with Genesee & Wyoming on the Port of Sydney container terminal project:

Although the railway has received approval from the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to discontinue rail service on the portion of its rail line between St. Peter’s Junction and Sydney, Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway Limited executives have instead decided to work cooperatively with HPDP to further common goals, including the promotion of the container terminal and the re-commencement of rail service from the terminal lands in the future.

Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke also welcomed the announcement. ‘Harbor-Port Development Partners are driving a private-sector led development that is gaining momentum. The involvement of CBNS allows all partners to work towards a long term opportunity,’ he stated.

Just two private-sector operators working cooperatively.

Except that, at some point in 2017, the Port of Sydney paid Genesee & Wyoming $120,000 in public money to further that cooperation.



PICTURED L-R: Chief Terry Paul, Peter Ford (Chief Strategy Officer at Ports America), Rt. Hon. Jean Chretien, Chief Leroy Denny, Albert Barbusci of SHIP, Daniel Peritz (Senior Vice-President of Canderel).


Purpose: advice and introduction to China stakeholders including sister City, translation of all materials including Port Prospectus, attandence [sic] at meetings in China and follow up support with Quad C, office support in China.

This is former Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s law firm and I think “photo ops” and “the right to cite ‘The Right Honorable Jean Chretien’ as an adviser” should be at the top of that list of things $50,000 will buy you.


The Usual Suspects

Turns out a lot of other people have contributed to making Sheehy and Barbusci’s vision a reality. And by “contributed” I mean, “have been paid by the Port of Sydney Development Corporation.” They are:


Breton Law


Purpose: ongoing legal work regarding all aspects of the project including exclusivity agreement and further legal documents as well as other harbor divestiture issues and FOIPOP.

This is the law firm of the omnipresent Jim Gogan, who is the lawyer for the Port of Sydney Development Corporation but who also works directly for the CBRM at times. (He was “hired by the municipality as a negotiator” in its dealings with the Department of Transport over the transfer of the Sydney harbor bed, for example, although he now seems to be working for the Port of Sydney on that file.)

In fact, he was hired by the CBRM in 2015, and one of his first duties was to draft a report explaining how the old Sydney Ports Corp’s assets (particularly that $2.5 million trust fund holding the leftover dredge monies) were to be transferred to the new Port of Sydney Development Corporation. According to a Cape Breton Post story from February 2015:

Lawyer Jim Gogan, who was retained by the CBRM on the port development file, told council Tuesday the Sydney Ports Corp. is essentially obligated to turn over its assets to the new organization, headed by CEO Marlene Usher.

‘They can’t simply distribute their assets to whomever they choose. They have to distribute them to a like-minded organization. In this case, we would say the proposed entity is a like-minded organization,’ Gogan said.

District 6 Councilor Ray Paruch suggested that since the dredge had been funded by the taxpayers (with the exception of a $1 million contribution from Nova Scotia Power), the leftover funds should be turned over to Council to decide how to allocate them.

Gogan made it clear council has options on how it can proceed.

However, he said ‘some amount of funds’ would be needed for operational expenses for the new port organization.

In that article, there was no discussion of the fact that these funds were earmarked for certain things, including navigational aids. I did a second FOIPOP asking for proof the Port of Sydney Development Corporation was authorized to spend these monies on business development. I’ve written about it in detail elsewhere in this issue, but I’d like to quote Usher here, because I believe it’s relevant:

On the question of permission to use the funds for other port projects I have enclosed the minutes to the oversight committee who administered the dredge funds. In addition to this we received a legal opinion which supported our authority to utilize the funds for other port projects. Legal opinions are privileged information and therefore this opinion is not enclosed.

Usher told me in a subsequent email that it was Jim Gogan who provided that legal opinion.



Albert Barbusci (via Novaporte website)

Albert Barbusci (via Novaporte website where “cheap” is still spelled “cheep” in case you were wondering)


Purpose: communications plan, digital strategy and government and media relations by National Communications.

Cadence, Cadence, hmmm, where I have heard that name before?

Oh, right, it’s the name of a company owned by Albert Barbusci.

And although Anne-Hélène Couturier of National Communications (Montreal) is still listed as a contact on the Novaporte (which is what Barbusci insists on calling our harbor) web site, an email addressed to her bounced — and her LinkedIn profile shows she left National in 2016.


Harker Associates

John Harker (Photo via LinkedIn)


Purpose: strategy on China sister city trip and attendance at some of the events as well as advocacy for the port in China.

That would be Harker as in former (2003-2013) Cape Breton University President John Harker. (His company is misidentified on the document I received from the Port as “Harker & Associates” which led me momentarily to this “high quality plastic sheet, rod and tube” manufacturer before I eventually got turned around.)

Harker, who has a certificate in Mandarin Chinese from Carleton University and has been a “senior trainor” with something called the Heilongjiang Coal Society in Harbin China since 2013, has headed Harker Associates Consulting since 1993. His LinkedIn bio also lists him as chairman of a company called Global Resources Investment for Development, but the NS Registry of Joint Stock Companies (which lists Neil Harker, Herbert J. Harker and Luciano Lisi as the company’s partners) says the firm was revoked for non-payment in November 2016.

(I could have come up with a “strategy” on a “China sister city trip” for way less than $18,000: Don’t mention Tiananmen.)


 Darious Group 


Purpose: consulting assignment to assist port on Transport Canada file regarding cabotage and to appeal for level playing field for all orts [sic] under CETA.

That would be Dave Dingwall.


The Experts


JC Evans Consulting


Purpose: rail expert to assist the port in meetings with rail companies and other shipping lines, attandance [sic] at rail meetings and key note at Ports Day 2016.

Remember good old James C. Evans? The port consultant whose bio included stints at Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor, Maersk and CMA-CGM in Norfolk Virginia? The guy who, as was explained at Ports Day 2016, met Usher at a conference, liked the sound of Sydney’s port project and came simply to share his personal opinion?

Yeah, well, that opinion cost $28,102.




Purpose: study for specific European line on North American transit.

Drewry (or “Drewery” as it’s listed on the document from the Port) is the maritime and shipping industry consulting firm.


The Locals

Vibe Communications

Purpose: Power point creative design for several tailored presentations.



Purpose: Port advertising.
That’s Transcontinental Media as in the owner of the famously pro-port Cape Breton Post.



Purpose: streaming port presentation at CBU.


City Printers

Purpose: Port prospectus booklets.



Purpose: retractable banner.

I believe this is the same firm that will put your pet’s face on a Christmas ornament, which would have been a great promotional item for the Port — Christmas ornaments featuring photos of all the main players.



Here are the companies I can’t find enough information about to identify with certainty:

Judy Hou Consulting

Purpose: attendance at all China meetings and provided translation services.
(There is a Judy Hou specializing in “China-related matters” at Dentons, Montreal.)


Purpose: logistics expert providing information on container terminal.

Consulting Mongeau

Purpose: research and preparation for meetings and research regarding competative [sic] and strategy in Atlantic Canada [They don’t have spellcheck at the Port?]


Travel & Visitors

China Delegation

(or as the Port document has it “china delagation”)


Purpose: car rental, gifts for Chinese delagates [sic], meals and hotels for Chinese delagates [sic]

Ports America visit

Purpose: Ports America visit to site in Sydney and presentations to stakeholders, charter from Halifax and rental of car.
Um, how many people came from Ports America? Wasn’t it just Peter Ford?


Purpose: 10 flight passes, plus trip to Montreal for Marlene Usher and business dinner in Sydney for stakholders [sic] on [sic] container terminal.

Usher directed me to the Air Canada site for the definition of a flight pass:

Flight Passes are a prepaid package of electronic one-way flight credits used for travel within a selected geographic zone during a specific period. A Flight Pass is comprised of a fixed or unlimited number of flight credits which can be managed online with ease.

She added:

The flight passes were in my name and were used for travel to Montreal four times and to New Jersey once. That’s 5 return trips accounting for 10 flight passes.

She specified in a subsequent email that she personally used all 10 passes.


Purpose: CBU research on fish habitat post-dredge.

CDF monitoring CBCL

Purpose: Confined Disposal Facility monitoring



Click for larger image. Missing text: Line 3: “…FOIPOP,” Line 7 “…Quad C, office support in China.” (Source: Port of Sydney Development Corporation)




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