Meeting to Discuss Future Meetings

CBRM Council met this morning to decide what it’s going to discuss at future meetings.

If I understand Mayor Cecil Clarke correctly, he has been compiling this list (which is not exhaustive) based on what he has been hearing from citizens. The topics are “in no order whatsoever” and this was simply a “starter process.”



Because the meeting was scheduled for Wednesday morning at 9:30 AM, I am obviously unable to cover the various items raised in detail. On the other hand, since they are simply talking about things they will eventually talk about, I figure I will get another opportunity to write about subjects like downtown development, the Atlantic Memorial Park, the plan for the municipality’s recreation facilities and the second cruise ship berth when they turn up on council agendas in 2019, so for now I’ll focus on three items.



There was an addendum to the agenda (added too late, apparently, to be included with the materials posted on the website), which was a presentation from John MacNeil, whose firm, Grant Thornton (which apparently has “an instinct for growth”) has been selected to conduct a $191,198.30 “viability” study on the CBRM. (Long live the Consultocracy!) According to the request for proposal (RFP) issued by the CBRM on 23 October 2018:

The objective is to provide context to ongoing discussions on the state of the CBRM’s fiscal capacity, fiscal potential, the efficiency and effectiveness of core services of the municipality, and the overall viability of the Municipality. The project proponents are looking for a detailed assessment of the financial state of affairs in the CBRM, a value -for -money audit of the CBRM’s operations, a revenue and cost comparison to comparable municipalities elsewhere, and a determination of wh at changes might be necessary to improve the overall viability of the CBRM’s circumstances in order to provide essential municipal services of reasonable quality at a reasonably comparable tax burden and effort.

The report is expected to be completed by 31 March 2019.


Central library

Artist's rendering of CBRM Central Library.

Artist’s rendering of CBRM Central Library.

The first item on the mayor’s list was the plan for a new central library.

Mayor Clarke explained that as far as the CBRM’s request for funding from other levels of government is concerned, there is a $21 million budget for the library —  $18 million of which will go toward construction of the building, which is expected to cover 35,000 square feet. That said, other monies may well be accessed through a public fundraising campaign or First Nations participation.

Economic development manager John Phalen told Council that the province is funding a “small study” to consider what will be feasible in terms of programming in the new facility.

Asked about concerns about the proposed waterfront location for the library, given the realities of climate change and rising sea levels, Phalen announced that the developer — Martin Chernin’s Harbour Royale Development — had received the “geotechnical” report last week and although it hasn’t been “vetted” yet, there’s “nothing scary yet down there that they’re worried about.” (And who better to tell us whether the site is appropriate for a publicly owned and operated building than the private developer trying to develop the land surrounding that building?)

Public works manager Wayne MacDonald seconded this, saying the “safe levels” for new waterfront construction are “well documented.”

Phalen also explained to Council that the choice of locations for the new structure was limited by the CBRM’s desire to build on municipally owned land. In terms of greenfield sites, he said, there were very few options although there are a number of “brownfield sites” including “the Sydney Tar Ponds.” (Note to John Phalen: you probably shouldn’t refer to lands we’ve spent millions to remediate as “The Sydney Tar Ponds.”)

Council decided the new library warranted a dedicated meeting.


Climate Change

Shoreline erosion, Malagawatch, CB. (Source: ACAP Cape Breton Malagawatch Shoreline Preservation Project

Shoreline erosion, Malagawatch, CB. (Source: ACAP Cape Breton Malagawatch Shoreline Preservation Project)

Deputy Mayor Ivan Doncaster added the issue of climate change to the mayor’s list (thank you, Deputy Mayor) and it was one of the very last items discussed on Wednesday.

Mayor Clarke suggested the municipality organize a broad, community meeting to discuss the issue rather than simply including it on an upcoming council agenda. The mayor envisioned a gathering that would include a variety of “stakeholders” and “citizens’ groups” as well as representatives from the provincial and federal governments.

Senior planner Malcolm Gillis pointed to the Municipal Climate Change Action Plan (2014) and the Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP, 2010) as resources and noted that the two key words in relation to climate change are “mitigation” and “adaptability.”

Interestingly, I had heard those very words earlier in the morning during a CBC Information Morning Cape Breton interview with a researcher from the University of Guelph who, along with colleagues from the University of Waterloo, has been evaluating the quality of municipal climate change plans in Canada. (I haven’t read the article, which is behind a paywall, but I heard the researcher tell the CBC’s Steve Sutherland that Kingston, Ontario is the most prepared city in Canada and Halifax is the only Nova Scotia municipality they evaluated).

Gillis told Council the CBRM is both mitigating and adapting even as we speak — the Civic Centre, he said, as it has been refurbished has also been made more efficient. Moreover, the new phase of the Sydney boardwalk is higher than the existing infrastructure, said Gillis, “in recognition that the sea is rising and becoming more violent.” (And yet, we’re still sanguine about building the new library on the waterfront…)

Council agreed the issue was worth discussing.