Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Confessions of a bad reporter

I forgot about Ports Day — Port Days? Ports Days? — whatever it is, I forgot about it.

I know, right? How does that happen? How does the most port-obsessed person in Sydney forget Port-a-palooza?

I can only plead temporary sanity. This week, I was apparently too sane to believe anyone would say anything worth hearing at Ports Day. And having read the accounts in LocalXpress and the Cape Breton Post, I see I was right.

Ambassatours' Dennis Campbell pictured on the front page of the Cape Breton Post with a "conceptual video" of the Sydney waterfront.

Ambassatours’ Dennis Campbell pictured on the front page of the Cape Breton Post with a “conceptual video” of the Sydney waterfront.

Dennis Campbell, CEO of Ambassatours Gray Line, the Halifax-based company that operates seven different boat tours and the Murphy’s Cable Wharf restaurant and gift shop on that city’s waterfront (and which is one of two tour operators serving the cruise industry in Sydney), may have accidentally given the whole game away in his presentation.

Campbell, says the Post, screened “a conceptual video” that was “finished just days ago,” showing a bar, patio, restaurant and gift shop where the Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club used to be. (When and by whom Campbell was given the option to develop this prime waterfront property seems like a question worth asking, so I will ask it and let you know what I find out.) But before audience members could get too excited (or start booking tables), Campbell said:

The reason that we didn’t call it an announcement is because it is a vision.

Which, I must point out, is another way of saying he’s seeing things. Continues the Post (with an admirable insistence on facts):

There is no estimated cost of the development at this early stage and no business plan has yet been drafted, although Campbell says it is in the works.

Port CEO Marlene Usher then imagined what it would be like if the rail line were actually capable of handling traffic from an imaginary mega-container terminal and Michael Tretheway, chief economics and strategy officer with InterVISTAS, imagined the “potential economic impact” of the “proposed terminal,” while reminding audience members his firm wasn’t hired “to say whether the plans are realistic or not.” (I wonder how much Tretheway was paid for his imaginings? Usher told the January 2017 meeting of the Port board that an in-person presentation by InterVISTAS would cost $12,000. During a later meeting she announced she’d negotiated a better deal, but the figure was not quoted so audience members wouldn’t be able to say, “That didn’t sound like a $10,000 speech” or “I could have not told you whether your plan was realistic for free.”)

Andrew Prossin of Vancouver-based One Ocean Expeditions imagined what it would be like if large ships could take on fuel at the new berth in Sydney (Usher says the ability to sell fuel to visiting ships is “imperative;” access to rail, by way of comparison, is “essential.”) Prossin, whose arctic “ecotours” now take on fuel and supplies in Halifax says he’d do so in Sydney. (According to its website, One Ocean Expeditions is “[d]edicated to the ocean and the complex marine ecosystems found in the Earth’s polar regions. If your aim is to come face to face with these stunning yet fragile areas of our planet, you have found the right companion to make that dream a reality.” Of course, anyone who was truly “dedicated” to these “stunning yet fragile areas” would stay the heck out of them, but where’s the fun in that?)

Do you know what I did instead of going to Ports Day? I went to the bungalow and helped install an extra 25-feet of 1-inch pipe (and 5-feet of 3/4 inch pipe) in our gravity feed water line. We didn’t first hire a European consultant to estimate the “potential” impact of the improved capacity. We, pikers that we are, didn’t even produce a conceptual video of the enhanced line or invite a bunch of people to eat lobster and listen to our plans. No, we just installed some extra pipe. But I think making one small project a reality was a better use of a fine spring day than listening to a lot of imaginings about bigger projects.


Hot this season: FOIA requests

I ran across this “web extra” from Full Frontal with Samantha Bee while doing some…research. Yeah, that’s I was doing, research.

I love the idea of young women suddenly going mad for FOIA — that’s Freedom of Information Act, the U.S. equivalent of Canada’s Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) or Nova Scotia’s Freedom of Information/Protection of Privacy (FOIPOP).

The steps outlined by Full Frontal’s Ashley Nicole Black apply to a U.S. FOIA request, but much of the advice (“be really specific but cover all your bases,” “pick the appropriate agency”) also applies to Canadian or Nova Scotian requests.

“I want to see this look trending, ladies!”


Dull is okay too

Just one election cycle ago, I would probably have been complaining about the dullness of  last night’s televised leaders’ debate between Liberal Stephen McNeil, Progressive Conservative Jamie Baillie and the NDP’s Gary Burrill.

But one election cycle ago, the Donald Trump White House didn’t exist outside the wildest imaginings of the man himself. One election cycle ago, we hadn’t watched the federal Conservatives here in Canada go full clown car in their search for a new leader.

NDP leader Gary Burrill, PC leader Jaime Baillie and Liberal leader Stephen McNeil. (Photo via CBC

NDP leader Gary Burrill, PC leader Jaime Baillie and Liberal leader Stephen McNeil. (Photo via CBC)

In this new reality, we have to be grateful that during the debate no one suggested anyone else on the stage should be jailed. No one made up a terrorist attack (‘The Lower River Inhabitants Massacre’). No one suggested immigrants should be subjected to a ‘Nova Scotia values’ test. No one advocated eliminating corporate taxes. No one left his podium to come and loom behind an opponent answering a question (a tactic, it must be admitted, only McNeil could have pulled off.)

As the media reported this morning, there were no “knockout blows,” there were barely even any testy exchanges, and if the format was a bit too buttoned down for my taste, I’m going to take that over exciting-but-unhinged-and-potentially-damaging-to-our-democracy.



The Cape Breton Spectator is entirely reader supported, consider subscribing today!