Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Berth of a Boondoggle?

“As for why it’s 18 months after the funding announcement and the supposed shovel-ready project still hasn’t proceeded, [CBRM Mayor Cecil] Clarke said it may have been in the addition of extra features in the design process, but admitted “I don’t have an answer.”

People may have been exuberant wanting to have extra capacity or add-ons  that were beyond what the core need was for a project,” Clarke said.– Cape Breton Post, 3 August 2018

So, the Post has gotten around to reporting what the Spectator realized after the last CBRM Council meeting (on July 11): the second berth tender is on the skids.

Rodger Cuzner, Geoff MacLellan, Mark Eyking

Rodger Cuzner, Geoff MacLellan, Mark Eyking announcing funding for Port of Sydney second berth. January 2017.

During that meeting, District 10 Councilor Darren Bruckschwaiger tried his best to get CBRM Public Workds Manager Wayne MacDonald to admit the bids had all been above the project’s $20 million budget, but MacDonald bobbed and weaved and dodged the question until Regional Solicitor Demetri Kachafanas stepped in and shut discussion down with:

We’re evaluating the tenders and our options of what we can do with them at this point.

Well, the evaluation is done and it seems the lowest bid (the Post doesn’t say of how many) was $24,746,346.79.

The explanations for the discrepancy offered by Mayor Cecil “Ready to Lead” Clarke are, shall we say, less than satisfying:

Clarke described the original tender prepared by the project consultant as being the “Cadillac” version of the development, with wish list items. Tenders closed on May 24.

“To look at the changes that were required to stay within…the budget window as well as what’s necessary to meet the needs of the cruise industry for berthage, what happened was after the consultant, the legal doing the review, there was significant changes to the design document,” Clarke said.

If I am understanding him correctly (never a given with me and Clarke), then he’s confirming what the Spectator reported back in April 2018 . 

But think about what he’s saying: knowing they had a strict $20 million budget, knowing the CBRM would be on the hook for any cost over-runs, knowing they had yet to secure the property for the second berth and that the price they paid could exceed the amount budgeted and knowing the project was already behind schedule (as the Spectator has reported, construction was to have begun in September 2017), Clarke went to tender with a “Cadillac” plan.

That makes zero sense.

And now we’re told that even having removed the bells and whistles that unnamed “people” were “exuberant” about, “the bids received were all too expensive” and the CBRM plans to ask the three lowest bidders to re-bid.

And still, somehow, we will have the second berth “operational” by the fall of 2019, according to the mayor (by September, according to the Port of Sydney) even though the addendum to the tender issued in April states clearly (on page 115):

Tenderer agrees to complete Substantial Performance of the main Contract Work by November 30, 2019 assuming the Award of Contract is no later than May 31, 2018.

Our mayor is a busy man, running for other jobs and such, and it’s entirely possible he hasn’t noticed 31 May 2018 has come and gone without a contract being awarded. He may also have spaced the fact that the cruise season is over by November, so what this date really means is that the berth will be “operational” in time for the 2020 season, but what is the excuse for the Port of Sydney? They surely are aware of that 30 November 2019 completion date — so why are they still telling cruise lines they’ll have a second berth by September?

Port of Sydney CEO Marlene Usher told council during that last meeting that any delay in completing the second berth would cost the Port financially but more importantly “reputationally.”

At which point, I have to remind you that cruise lines don’t have particularly good reputations themselves. Remember what Memorial University Professor Ross Klein (aka the cruisejunkie) told us about building $20 million second berths to satisfy their demands:

…Klein says such infrastructure spending should be seen for what it is: a subsidy to an industry that makes billions of dollars in profit each year. A subsidy for companies that avoid US and Canadian taxes (and labor laws) by registering in places like Panama, Liberia, Bermuda and the Bahamas.

None of this was in the air back in January 2017 when every Cape Breton politician known to man showed up at the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion to celebrate the decision of the federal and provincial governments to help fund the second berth.

Pam Eyking, Mark Eyking, Stephen MacNeil, Derek Mombourquette at funding announcement for Port of Sydney second berth. January 2017.

Now Clarke, who hand-picked Usher for her plumb position as Port of Sydney CEO; who sat on the “interim” Port board for two years, while plans for the second berth were hashed out; who has had his fingers in every square inch of the Port development pie since he was first elected in 2012, has suddenly remembered — as things go galley-west — that the CBRM has a council:

“We’re very mindful as a council that we have to stay within our budget,” Clarke said.

And Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking is roaming the waterfront wondering where the shovels are (that was a Bruce Cockburn song, wasn’t it?)

As for Premier Stephen McNeil, MLAs Derek Mombourquette and Geoff MacLellan and Cape Breton Canso MP Rodger Cuzner, they don’t seem to be tripping over themselves to comment on this latest development.

Clarke (who was “traveling in Cape Breton” when he spoke to the Post‘s Nancy King on Wednesday) says all will be well if we simply lower our expectations:

“As much as it would be nice to have something with more whistles and bells and capacity, what we’re going to is what our core need is and what the industry said to me several years ago now, in terms of Holland America in Seattle, is, ‘We don’t need it to look pretty, it has to be safe and meet regulations.’”

Trust me, your worship, it doesn’t look pretty.

 

MINNING!

Mining is a big part of our lives!
You can’t avoid it.
Without it, you die.

That’s the stirring conclusion of “The minning [sic] ABCS,” the winning video in the junior high category of the Mining Association of Nova Scotia’s (MANS) “Mining Rocks” competition.

 

The contest is MANS’ attempt to turn the province’s children into mining and quarrying enthusiasts under the banner, “Not Your Grandfather’s Mining” (or “minning,” depending on your grandfather, I guess. And before you tell me not to pick on children let me point out that I am not the one who got the children involved with this.)

“The minning ABCS” is an alphabet song in which each letter represents something we dig out of the ground, starting with Aggregate, Beryl, Coal and Diamonds and ending with Wadalite, Xonotitle, Yvonite and Zinc.

As an educational tool, it’s mixed. A young voice sings the uses of the various metals and minerals as they appear onscreen, so over “Kyanite, Lithium, Marble” we hear the cheery and informative: “furnaces, medication for depression, counters.” But by the time we get to the end of the alphabet, the research department is seriously letting our musical narrator down — over Wadalite, Xonotitle and Yvonite all we get is “found in Japan, found in South Africa, found in France.” (Apparently, what we haven’t found is any practical use for any of them.)

Despite its flaws, the video netted a $1,000 prize for its student creator and — I think — has given MANS executive director Sean Kirby a new song to sing, if only he’s smart enough to recognize it.

Kirby, the son of retired Liberal Senator Michael Kirby, is a partner at Revolving Door Prospectus Associates, an Ottawa-based collection of former political staffers and bureaucrats (both Liberal and Conservative) who now spend their days lobbying their old colleagues and departments on behalf of a delightful clientele that ranges from defense contractors — Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, CAE, Sikorsky — to water hogs — Nestlé Waters.

(That last must be a beaut of a file to work on — Google “Nestlé Waters” and it’s not long before you’re reading about the Swiss company bottling and shipping millions of liters of water from states — like California — and towns — like Hillsborough, Ontario — experiencing drought. Not to mention bottling and shipping water it may have no legal right to in the first place. Not to mention contributing to the world’s plastic pollution problem. Imagine turning that into an alphabet song: “G is for Great Pacific Garbage Patch!)

Prospectus also, interestingly, represents Louisbourg Seafoods. I’m not quite sure what to make of that, unless they’ve discovered a way to weaponize halibut.

Source: LinkedIn

Source: LinkedIn

But back to Sean Kirby. In addition to his status as a Prospectus partner and the president of Halifax-based Kirby Consulting, and executive director of Landscape Nova Scotia (The Voice of Nova Scotia’s Landscape & Horticultural Industry), he is executive director of MANS, a position he’s held since 2012. He’s also a man with one tune, which he’s been singing for a number of years now, writing the same letter over and over again to the province’s newspapers, explaining why protecting the province’s land is destroying our economy (a subject on which he is very knowledgeable, having served as the spokesperson for Jean Chrétien during his 1997 election campaign AND as press secretary to Canada’s Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development and Western Economic Diversification.)

How great would it be if instead of rewriting the same old letter he videotaped himself singing “The Minning ABCS?” All he’d really have to do is change the “J” from “Jadorite” (a mineral with a chemical formula almost identical to that of the fictional kryptonite, a fact the song, incredibly, omits) to “Jobs.”

Because all Kirby cares about is creating jobs for us Nova Scotians, even though his organization represents not “us Nova Scotians,” but mining and quarrying and engineering concerns. Even though mines — with all their negative environmental implications — can jeopardize jobs in other Nova Scotia industries like tourism and forestry and agriculture and the fisheries. And even though the bills for the eventual and inevitable cleanups, after the mining and quarrying is done, almost always find their way into the province’s mailbox. (If you would like to know about MANS’ plan to mine the province and your taste in educational materials runs more to well-researched, meticulously footnoted articles than to 2-minute music videos by junior high school students, I can recommend Joan Baxter’s excellent “Fool’s Gold” series for the Cape Breton Spectator and the Halifax Examiner).

None of this worries Kirby, who knows our future is just lying there under the ground, waiting for us to rip out a bunch of trees, throw away a bunch of fertile topsoil and claim it. So it would only make sense for him to sing:

Mining is a big part of our lives!
You can’t avoid it.
Without it, you die.

On the other hand, I’m kind of partial to the tune sung by Rod Googoo, chief of Waycobah First Nation, whose territory is in Kirby’s sights. (Kirby wants to turn Kelly’s Mountain, a sacred Mi’kmaq site contained within the Kluscap Wilderness Area, into a quarry, creating work for “about 80 people” for “decades and decades” after which it would “perhaps” be returned to the protected area. Does this guy know how to make a deal or what?)

Googoo told the Cape Breton Post:

“That can’t continue on, this trade-off of jobs for the sake of overlooking what we believe in. And it’s coming to that point now all across Canada. It’s not only native people — everybody is getting tired of it. Cape Breton is a beautiful, beautiful piece of real estate — gorgeous — we should be exploiting the natural beauty of the island as opposed to exploiting the resources. What do we have left in Cape Breton, really? There’s nothing much left. All we have is natural beauty, and then once you start digging up resources, what do we have left then? What’s going to happen once everything that’s in the ground is extracted? There’s nothing left. There’s nothing in the oceans. There’s no more trees to cut down. No more gold or oil? What’s going to happen then? What do we have left? Nothing.”

Sing it, brother.

 

Bar Harbor Ferries (Plural)

As reported by various sources  — including Tina Comeau of the Tricounty Vanguard — Bay Ferries is not the only ferry operator contemplating a Maine to Nova Scotia service from the old Marine Atlantic terminal in Bar Harbor.

Yarmouth ferry (Source: Bay Ferries Ltd https://www.ferries.ca/)

Yarmouth ferry (Source: Bay Ferries Ltd https://www.ferries.ca/)

According to the Mount Desert Islander:

Steve Pagels, owner of Downeast Windjammer Cruises, has submitted a lease proposal to operate a ferry between Bar Harbor and Nova Scotia from the former ferry terminal on Eden Street.

Pagels, who also operates the schooner Margaret Todd in Bar Harbor along with several other local ferries, sent his proposal by certified mail to the Town Council on July 24.

That was just days after the Bar Harbor Town Council had agreed to consider a proposal from Bay Ferries:

The new proposal comes while the town is in negotiations with Bay Ferries Ltd., the Canadian ferry service that operated the Bar Harbor-Nova Scotia Ferry between 1997 and 2010. Bay Ferries proposes to reinstate the international ferry service starting in June 2019.

The Town of Bar Harbor has agreed to buy the old ferry terminal with plans to develop into a multi-use marina.

I’ve cropped all the pertinent pages out of the Bar Harbor Town Council agenda for your reading pleasure, so you can compare and contrast the two proposals yourself.

The items that jump out at me are (in no particular order):

a) Pagels is proposing a service that would include trucks. Bay Ferries proposes to continue carrying cars and buses.

b) Bay Ferries proposes running the service from the Memorial Day weekend (the last Monday in May) to the Indigenous People’s Day weekend (the second Monday in October) while Pagels proposes to run his service from Memorial Day to Columbus Day (the second Monday in October). This confused me until I read that Indigenous People’s Day and Columbus Day are the same day, it’s just that the one has gradually been replacing the other in some American states and a number of American cities. The cities include Portland, Maine, where Bay Ferries currently operates, but not Bar Harbor, which still celebrates Columbus Day.

c) Bay Ferries seems very confident the Province of Nova Scotia will support it in its bid to return to Bar Harbor, stating:

Bay Ferries Limited (“Bay”), with the support of the Province of Nova Scotia (“Province”), is attempting to build a sustainable long-term ferry operation between Canada and the US to benefit communities on both sides.

With the support of the Province, Bay will provide an amount anticipated to be $3 million US for land-side and marine-side facility improvements to make resumption of ferry service possible. The target is for the re-commencement of ferry service in June 2019.

All indications of support and/or investment from the Province are subject to final confirmation from the Province which will be provided on or around October 1, 2018.

The province has already pitched in to help pay for $1.5 million in improvements to the ferry terminal in Portland, Maine.

No wonder Americans think of Canadians as “nice.”

And “suckers.”

Here’s all the dope from the Bar Harbor meeting:

Bay_Ferries_FINAL

 

Business behaving badly

Nova Scotia Power Inc’s (NSPI) affinity for US-based companies with a distaste for unions was on proud display this past week, as the company entered into happy alliances with the Cline Group and Savage CANAC Corp.

NSPI has agreed to buy coal from the Donkin Mine, which is owned and operated by Cline Group subsidiary Kameron Coal Management. According to the CBC’s Tom Ayers, the contract between the two will be for “several years” and will involved washed coal which NSPI assures us meets its “stringent” environmental regulations. (Note to NSPI: no environmental regulations that allow you to burn coal in 2018 can be considered “stringent.”)

Paul Carrigan, head of the Donkin community liaison committee expressed satisfaction with the deal, unconcerned, apparently, that the “Donkin community liaison committee wasn’t informed’ about it.

It’s good news, according to Carrigan, because Donkin “creates employment.” Which it does — especially for foreign temporary workers from the United States, who are paid far more than their Cape Breton counterparts, a little piece of business for which Kameron Coal Management is currently being fined. But really, why rain on their parade by bringing that up?

To recap: a US-owned, non-union mine with a raft of safety violations and a penchant for paying Americans more than locals will be supplying coal to our privately owned power company, allowing it to continue its proud tradition of fossil fuel incineration.

Good times, good times.

NSPI also did a deal with another US company characterized by local union types as “anti-union.” The power company dissolved its contract with Logistec, the firm that has handled its coal shipments for 18 years, and awarded a new contract to Savage CANAC Corporation, a name Charles Dickens might have avoided as being a little too on-the-nose.

The Cape Breton Post first reported the concerns of unionized Logistec workers that they would not be rehired by Savage CANAC, then followed up with a story headlined: “Savage CANAC Corp. kicks off contract for operation of Sydney coal pier, related rail operations,” which made up for anything critical that might have been said about CANAC by allowing the company to reply to concerns that it would not rehire unionized workers with this:

Savage officials say they have more than 4,000 team members in over 250 locations across the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. Hymas said they’ve worked in Canada for many years and currently have operations or facilities in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“Our company president and CEO, Kirk Aubry, is originally from Windsor, Ontario.“

See? They’re not really American, they operate all over Canada and their president is from Windsor, for crying out loud, he’s practically a Maritimer.

What’s that? You wanted to know about us hiring unionized workers? Oh, Savage doesn’t “publicly discuss workforce numbers for specific locations and are careful about preserving the privacy of all job applicants.” Also, they are “not privy to the number of employees the former contractor employed at the International Coal Pier.” Oh and here’s the company’s communications director, Jeff Hymas:

“We have hired the majority of the former contractor employees who applied for jobs with Savage at this location,” he said. “It’s also our understanding some were transferred within the former company.”

Hymas said some other Canadian Savage Services team members applied for positions and were transferred and other workers were hired locally.

“We were pleased with the quality of job candidates in the Cape Breton area and have been successful in hiring mostly local people for the operation,” he said.

Oh, the weasel words are flying fast and furious around the international coal pier, folks.

And why is NSPI still bringing in foreign coal anyway, if the coal from Donkin is so excellent?

Cape Sharp turbine being mobilized. (Source: OpenHydro)

Cape Sharp turbine being mobilized. (Source: OpenHydro)

My final NSPI story this week is actually about the power company’s parent, Emera, which owns 2.2% of OpenHydro, the company that just dropped a massive turbine in the Bay of Fundy before declaring bankruptcy.

I give the Chronicle Herald‘s Aaron Beswick full credit for covering the heck out of this story, reporting that:

Dublin-based OpenHydro Group Ltd. and its subsidiary Open Hydro Technologies Ltd…owe a combined $479 million.

Emera owns 2.2% of OpenHydro and as Beswick reported, the company website lists Emera vice president of special projects Christian Richard as a member of the board of directors.

Beswick also reported that senior managers at OpenHydro wrote to the company’s board of directors on July 24, warning them that they might be breaking Irish law by operating an insolvent company as though it were “a going concern.”

But Emera spokesperson Stacey Pineau told Beswick that Richard had “vacated” his board seat in March of 2018:

“Given our relatively small 2.2 per cent investment stake in OpenHydro, we made the strategic decision to focus on our 20 per cent investment in Cape Sharp Tidal,” said Pineau of Emera’s reasons for vacating the seat.

A press release issued by Emera in 2008 stated that it paid $15 million for its ownership stake in OpenHydro and a seat on its board.

As a result, Emera claims to have had no idea OpenHydro was in financial difficulties. Even though OpenHydro also co-owns Cape Sharp Tidal, on which Emera has supposedly been “focusing” since March.

This reminded me of questions raised by Newfoundland lawyer Cabot Martin about Emera and Muskrat Falls. Martin was a policy adviser to premier Brian Peckford and one of five lawyers who formed 2041 Energy Incorporated to protest the Newfoundland hydro project.

Martin was writing after an engineer with Nalcor, Newfoundland’s provincial energy corporation, claimed the company doctored data to ensure the Muskrat Falls project got off the ground. Martin wondered if Emera recognized that Nalcor’s initial cost projections for the project — $6.2 billion — were “absurdly low?” (The project is now expected to cost over $12 billion.) Wrote Martin:

Did Emera know (or should [it] ] have known) that this egregious Nalcor behavior was going on over on the other side of the negotiating table (more or less unknown to the Newfoundland Government) when Emera entered into their vast and bewildering web of Muskrat contracts with Nalcor?

Emera would, of course, plead ignorance — but just how ignorant could (or should) a company be about the firms it’s doing business with? And not just any business, multi-million dollar mega-projects?

In the most recent case, if Emera actually didn’t know its Cape Sharp Tidal partner was about to go belly up, it really makes you wonder if Emera CEO Chris Huskilson is worth the $5 million he earned in 2016.

 

 

 

 

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