This Story Cost $478

Our dream is to work WITH the community to bring a new vibrancy to the area and to support the economy in a way that respects the land and the people,”¬†— 22 February 2019 post on the Ceilidh on the Lakes Facebook page.


Here are some other interesting things I found in the “Ceilidh on the Lakes” correspondence I FOIPOPed from the CBRM.

Calgary-based developer Chris Skidmore had begun looking into applicable provincial rules and regulations for his proposed Big Pond Centre RV Park before the project had even gone to CBRM Council. One of the hurdles he encountered was from the Department of Communities, Heritage and Culture which recommended he undertake an “archaeological resource impact assessment,” as per this letter:



Skidmore forwarded the letter to CBRM Planner Karen Neville (“I thought if I found something on the site I would contact them, what’s your take on this?”) but also responded immediately — and rather aggressively:



Sean Weseloh McKeane, coordinator of special places with Communities, Culture & Heritage, replied to Skidmore, telling him precisely how his department had gotten its information about the RV park:

At this point, Skidmore handed the file over to his lawyer, Christopher Conohan of Khattar & Khattar, who responded to McKeane. CBRM Director of Planning Malcolm Gillis, who was cc’ed on Conohan’s response, forwarded it to Planner Karen Neville under an interesting subject line:

The resolution to the issue seemed to be this:

It is a “recommendation” not a “requirement.” So, although we want to respect the land and the people, we’re going to file this one under “hurdle: surmounted.”



While the CBRM’s planners seemed ready to answer all Skidmore’s requests, they were less forthcoming when it came to a request from the appellants, one of whom, Debra Moffatt, sent an email to Neville on 6 February 2018 requesting:

…access to any and all staff reports that have been generated in your investigation into this Zone Amendment 1037 process.

Neville responded on that same day by sending  Moffatt copies of the two issue papers (already publicly available) that were presented to Council.

Moffatt responded on 7 February 2018:

She doesn’t seem to have received a response, because months later, on 3 June 2018, she tried again:

Now, in my experience, what would happen next is that Neville would inform Moffatt that she must submit a FOIPOP request and when Moffatt did, the department would calculate how much time it would take to gather the information, and the CBRM would use that calculation to generate an enormous fee, thus effectively discouraging Moffatt from accessing the information without actually saying “you can’t have it.”

But that’s not what happened next. This is:

If I’m following the email chain correctly (and that’s not a given, which is why I’m giving you a link so you can check out the materials yourselves), Roy MacInnis, another of the appellants, was advised by [NAME REDACTED] to meet with their lead agent, [NAME REDACTED] and to send Moffatt’s email requests to the UARB. In doing so, McInnis made the point that Moffatt had initially requested the information in February — before council approved Skidmore’s amendment request, so, obviously, before the appellants had appealed council’s decision to the UARB and therefore before the UARB had set any timelines.

The UARB’s response is not included (I’m guessing it would be outside of the scope of my FOIPOP request).

But Skidmore’s response, conveyed by his lawyer, is included. Christopher Conohan wrote:

The Applicant takes the position that the date of the request for this information nor the information requested is of relevance in this proceeding.

But the obvious question remains: why would the planners be unwilling to share the information their recommendation was based on with the appellants? (You’ll note, Neville’s 11 June 2018 response isn’t to say, “We already gave you all the information,” it’s, “We cannot legally give you any more information,” which suggests there was more information.)



And finally, I’d like to present my three favorite pages from the document dump. I think it’s the agreement for a Traffic Impact Study (TIS), which Skidmore attached to an email to Neville on 31 October 2017.

Skidmore said it was to be “executed very soon” and that he was working with “Santec [sic]” (presumably Stantec) on it.

He also included notes taken during a “scope development meeting” with the Department of Transportation on 12 September 2017 (i.e. 10 days before anyone in Big Pond Centre knew what he was planning).

But while Skidmore was happy to share the agreement with Neville, he apparently doesn’t want to share it with the rest of us: