CBRM Council: Short Takes on Random Agenda Items

Here are some other items from last night’s Cape Breton Regional Council meeting that you might find of interest:


The Mayor Gets Political

Cape Breton University (CBU) interim president Dale Keefe and vice president of finance and operations Gordon MacInnis presented to council on the past, present and future of CBU and it was as grim as you might expect.

The university is facing declining domestic enrollment, must depend on the “risky” strategy of attracting more foreign students and hasn’t been as lucky as Acadia University in its ability to attract extra funds from the provincial government.

During the “future” part of the presentation, Keefe addressed the search for a new president which inspired Mayor Clarke to make what he actually called a “political” speech from the chair, in which he plumped for the hiring of a talented local businessperson as the next president because universities are just big businesses and local businesspeople understand business and well, just, business.

I wonder who he has in mind?


Military maneuvers

Finally, a use for our railway that doesn’t actually require that it be functioning or able to handle double-stacked shipping containers!

The 4 Engineer Support Regiment (4 ESR) chose Sydney for its upcoming military exercises (code name: Nihilo Sapper) because we have a port and a rail line and something else I can’t remember because I wasn’t really that interested all quite close to each other.

Members of the regiment will be living in what their spokesperson called the “Open Heath” park for a month — from October 24 to November 24 — during which time they will practice relocatable temporary camp construction, explosive threat mitigation and general support engineering tasks. In civilian terms, that will translate into building a trail bridge in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and working on a snowmobile trail, among other projects.

I think a little invasion is just what we need to liven up the fall.


Cape Breton Partnership

Keith MacDonald of the Cape Breton Partnership came to council to ask for funding last night ($50,000 this year, $100,000 next).

The presentation was fascinating to people like me, who have been obsessed with the CBRM’s relationship to the CB Partnership and Business Cape Breton (BCB). Assuming, that is, there are other people who share that obsession, which I’m not actually sure is the case.

I’m not going to go into great detail (stop cheering) because I’m starting to bore myself on this subject, but the CBRM used to be part of Regional Enterprise Network 6 (REN6) with Victoria, Inverness and Richmond Counties. The CB Partnership and BCB were the “delivery agencies” for the REN’s economic development programs.

Clarke pulled out of REN6 last year, announcing that the CB Partnership would serve the three counties remaining in the REN while BCB would become the CBRM’s economic development entity.

Since then, BCB has struggled to secure funding other than that provided by the CBRM — it lost ACOA funding for its Small Business Development Centre, it negotiated for months to land $225,000 from the province for a Glace Bay & Area Revitalization Study, and its staff has fluctuated with its finances.

The Partnership, on the other hand, has been growing — hiring more staff and opening more offices to help it deliver programs for various provincial and federal government departments.

I have no idea if the Partnership’s programs are effective — I’m a huge economic development skeptic at the best of times, you know that — but comparing the Partnership and BCB websites is fun, and when I sit through five-and-a-half hours of council meetings for you people, I feel I’m entitled to all the fun I can get. The Partnership’s website is so slick it makes you feel underdressed.  BCB’s, on the other hand, makes you feel like you’ve accidentally wandered into the back office at a Needs convenience store.

MacDonald’s pitch to the CBRM was that the Partnership could leverage the CBRM’s dollars to access more dollars from other levels of government.

The message seemed loud and clear to me — it will be interesting to see what Council heard.