All Hail the Business Sector Volunteer Vanguards!

I was confused from the moment I read the subject line (which you can click to enlarge):

 

My best guess was that “Portege” was a typo and what Business Cape Breton had actually launched was an Entrepreneurial PORTAGE/Vanguard Program. This, I decided, would either involve entrepreneurs carrying canoes on their heads (in some sort of corporate team-building exercise) or would turn out to be one of those dreadful business analogies, like “Entrepreneurs never give up — they just pick up their desks and portage to the next opportunity.”

Turns out, I was both right and wrong — “Portege” was a typo, but it wasn’t a misspelling of ‘Portage,’ it was a misspelling of ‘Protégé.’

 

Still confused

Opening the email, I was faced with this:

Front row: Parker Rudderham, Chair BCB Second row (left-right): Cecil Saccary Vice-Chair BCB, Eileen Lannon Oldford, CEO BCB and Jim Kehoe Board Member BCB

Front row: Parker Rudderham, Chair BCB. Second row (left-right): Cecil Saccary Vice-Chair BCB, Eileen Lannon Oldford, CEO BCB and Jim Kehoe Board Member BCB

 

BCB chair Parker Rudderham looks like he suspects there’s something happening behind him but is afraid to turn around which is a shame because if he did, he’d see that the cast of Murder, She Wrote has dropped by to visit. Or perhaps he’s uncomfortable because he suspects ‘Protégé’ has been misspelled again on the signs on his desk. (It has — only now it’s been conjugated to “Protège” as in, ‘I protect’ or ‘s/he protects.’)

But enough with the nitpicking — what is an Entrepreneurial Portege/Protège/Protégé/Vanguard Program anyway?

Well, according to the accompanying press release (Dateline Sydney, N.S.):

To increase business development in the region, Business Cape Breton continues to deliver services that assist new and existing businesses with business plan development and advisory services. A new addition to the business development program will be the introduction of an Entrepreneur Protégé/Vanguard Pilot Program.

The BCB Entrepreneurial Vanguard Committee will provide guidance, coaching, and training along with providing information on identifying new investment opportunities to BCB clients wishing to start or expand a business. The Entrepreneur Protégé would have the opportunity to participate in one-on-one sessions with Q & A as well as opportunities for one-on-one meetings with successful and specific business sector volunteer vanguards. Parker Rudderham, Chair of Business Cape Breton says, “This is yet another tangible value we can offer aspiring entrepreneurs.”

 

Jesus, take the keyboard…

 

Van guard?

I think they are actually using the word “vanguard” to refer to individuals, like, Cecil Saccary is one vanguard and Jim Kehoe is another. I really think they are, I mean, they’re promising “one-on-one meetings” with “successful and specific business sector volunteer vanguards.”

Unless, of course, they’re actually referring to people who guard vans for a living, and I can see where a meeting with somebody like that would be helpful if you were hoping to enter the same business yourself, but even then, I’m guessing the conversation would peter out pretty quickly:

Entrepreneurial Protégé: So, um, how did you get started in the business?

Vanguard: I was standing on the corner of Pitt and George and a guy offered me $10 to guard his van. It just went from there. Now I watch two, maybe three a week.

Entrepreneurial Protégé: Just vans?

Vanguard: Just vans.

Perhaps they’re actually promoting a summer replacement Reality TV show, The Entrepreneurial Protégé. Like The Apprentice except instead of Donald Trump, it’s local businessmen, and instead of facing elaborate corporate challenges (“Invent a soft drink that contains Donkin coal. Convince McDonald’s to carry it.”) contestants just work for nothing and instead of getting fired they’re eventually laid off and replaced by new contestants.

I’d probably watch that.

 

But seriously, folks

Actually, there is no “seriously” here. This is not anything anybody needs to take seriously. The Cape Breton Post didn’t even take this seriously, and the Post has printed so many stories quoting Lannon-Oldford this year, I find it strange to open the paper and not see her. (We’re talking January 20March 22, April 14, May 11, May 24 and May 31.)

Even the Post doesn’t believe this latest program constitutes a “tangible value” (which I think is an oxymoron, like an “ephemeral brick wall”) proving BCB is a wise steward of the hundreds of thousands of public dollars it receives each year — including the $225,000 it received in January 2017 to fund a Glace Bay and Area Revitalization Study.

Here’s the “seriously, folks” part: I’m trying to piece together the timeline for that funding — I FOIPOPed the CBRM asking for all documentation related to the plan from 1 January 2016 to 1 March 2017.

I received a pile of paper that included no fewer than four copies of the Glace Bay Revitalization Strategy, a full copy of the tender package (which I’d already found online) plus a handful of emails — the earliest dated 27 November 2016:

Remember I told you my timeframe began 1 January 2016? That would pre-date this email — which is clearly not the first discussion of the plan — by 11 months. (My guess, by the way, is that “Kelliann” is Kelliann Dean, deputy minister for Municipal Affairs, the department that eventually comes through with the money.)

Could this actually represent the first time in the process that the CBRM was officially involved? And is it significant that John Phalen, the economic development officer to whom the email is addressed, was hired quietly around that time? (He was still the Public Works Manager as late as October 2016, during the floods.) I was going to appeal this FOIPOP, but a) that would take two years and b) it seems likely the CBRM was not included officially in the planning of this project.

I’ve been told in the past the BCB itself is not subject to FOIPOPs as it doesn’t meet the definition of a public body, but that was before the CBRM declared the organization its economic development arm, so I’ll try FOIPOPing them and see what happens.

There is, after all, more than one way to guard a van, so I hope to have more for you soon. Then we can sit down and have a one-on-one session with Q&A. (Whoever they are.)

 

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