Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Ahem…

Back in May of 2019, I wrote a story with the headline, “This is what a REAL port announcement looks like,” in which I contrasted what was happening at the Port of Québec — which had announced a deal with CN and Hatchet Ports to build and operate the $775 million “Laurentia” container terminal — to what passes for port “announcements” in CBRM. (“We’ve secured a Chinese sister city!”)

I just re-read that story and, in light of the latest developments on this file, was relieved to see that I’d ended the piece with a discussion of the opposition of environmental groups — seven of which had banded together to fight the project. Although the Québec Port Authority (QPA) claimed the terminal would have “the smallest ecological footprint in the world”:

…those opposed to any expansion of the Québec terminal aren’t buying any of this small ecological footprint stuff, which is why I am not leaping to the conclusion that the Laurentia terminal is a done deal.

Port of Québec home page

The Port of Québec home page looks like the poster for Michael Bay movie about container terminals. (Source: Port of Québec)

I noted that the project was under assessment by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC):

That process has been underway since 2015 and according to environmental organizations opposed to the expansion of the port, the delay is due to the QPA’s inability to justify the project in the face of the major negative impacts outlined by its opponents.

My eye in Quebec City (read: my sister) gave me a heads up this week that IAAC had released its draft environmental impact study on the project, which it finds is “likely to cause significant environmental effects” in areas under federal jurisdiction including fish habitat, air quality, traditional land uses and socio-economic conditions (“due to effects on sport and commercial fisheries”).

The Port is pushing back — saying the report is incomplete and omits “numerous important facts.” There will now be a 30-day response period, after which the IAAC will release its final report.

The IAAC also released its draft assessment of a second multi-million container terminal project, this one in Contrecoeur, northeast of Montreal, inspiring, as a LaPresse subhead would have it “Joy in Montreal.” with its conclusion that any environmental effects would be “residual.” This report, too, is now subject to a 30-day response period.

 

Lobbyists?

An extensive renovation is also underway at the nearby Sydney River McDonald’s restaurant that’s owned by the Kennerknecht family.

A “very high-end lobby” is part of that project which is expected to be completed by the end of October. — Cape Breton Post, 14 October 2020

I have been meaning to write about this for some time (since October 14, in fact). I had been watching the (very slow) progress of this renovation prior to reading the Post article, and after reading it, I became curious to see what a “very high-end lobby” looked like in the context of a fast-food restaurant.

I think the Post reporter was puzzled by the concept too, because he made a point of attributing the term to the interviewee, Wayne Kennerknecht, rather than simply stating it, as you would if the project were say, an expanded dining area or a larger kitchen.

“Very high-end lobbies” are something I associate with expensive hotels, so I pictured fountains, chandeliers, grand pianos, lesser royals eating crumpets, MI6 agents pretending to read newspapers, even though none of this seemed likely in a Sydney River McDonald’s. Or any McDonald’s, really.

But I was willing (nay, hoping) to be surprised. Perhaps the Sydney River McDonald’s would become the place to see and be seen in CBRM. Maybe I’d find myself there, lurking behind some palm fronds, eavesdropping on the society ladies chatting over their fountain drinks and Chicken McNuggets.

McDonald's Sydney River, NS

But I went by this week, and the “high-end lobby” appears to be…an expanded dining area.

On the bright side, for the Drive-thru workers who seem to have had to continue work as the construction went on around them, it’s finished.

 

Also noted

So much comes up in the course of a three-hour council meeting that even people — like me — who write about the proceedings at length can’t cram everything into their reports. I always find myself with a few bits and bobs left over, so I’ve decided to tuck a couple of them into this week’s Fast & Curious, like stocking stuffers for people who enjoy receiving short reports from municipal council meetings for Christmas. (I realize these people do not exist but I’m too lazy to go back and rework the comparison, so, passons.)

Taxes

First, the CBRM has extended the deadline to apply for its COVID-19 Property Tax Financing Program (which is not to be confused with tax forgiveness, as I wrote when it was first introduced back in May). Apparently, uptake wasn’t great the first time round and there’s still money in the pot, so anyone wishing to apply to stretch payment of their 2020 property taxes over 30 months now has until December 31 to do so.

Tax Installment Program

 

Code of silence

CBRM property PID 15879190

The property in question marked in red.

On Wednesday, I listed five examples of what I considered unnecessary secrecy during Tuesday’s night’s council meeting but there’s a sixth I forgot to include.

Council approved a request to declare a parcel of CBRM-owned land on MacQueen’s Lane, Round Island surplus in response to a request from someone identified only as “the party of interest” who “owns the adjacent lot” and who wishes to purchase the land.

Again, why is this “party” not named?

And on a related note, what happens next? Council approved declaring the property surplus, is it now added to the surplus properties list?  And once it is, can anyone bid on it?

The CBRM website isn’t very helpful as to the actual sales process:

Interested in purchasing CBRM surplus property?

Please contact: propertysales@cbrm.ns.ca or 902-563-5045 for more information on zoning requirements per property, and more about the proposal process.

The CBRM would be required to review the request on an individual basis to ensure compliance with zoning, and all related municipal issues including public works possible concerns. The Cape Breton Regional Municipality reserves the right at its sole discretion to approve or reject any offer; or modify the terms of any offer if it is deemed to be in the best overall interest of the Municipality.

Although it seems clear the CBRM has a lot of discretion in terms of the sale. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, just noting that it’s a thing.

I’m really starting to believe, by the way, this mania for secrecy starts with the bureaucracy — the CAO doesn’t name the non-profits and charities she wants the municipality to fund, the regional solicitor doesn’t name the would-be buyer for municipal property, the planning department doesn’t mention the stop-work order at Sacred Heart Church in its report on the project and the manager at Centre 200 doesn’t name the woman who was awarded the food and beverage contract at the Miners’ Forum.

All of this is public information, why the tight lips?

 

M&S Christmas

This Twitter thread about a very Marks & Spencer Christmas went viral this morning and while I feel it’s cheating a bit to quote somebody else this extensively in Fast & Curious, I think the quality of the story justifies it.

It was shared by Dubliner Richy Craven (@RichyCraven), “half man, half-wit” according to his Twitter bio, and it had attracted thousands of likes by the time I saw it (and seems destined to attract thousands more before going wherever old Twitter threads go) but I thought those of you who don’t use Twitter might enjoy it, so here it is, “unrolled” to make for easier reading:

The most stressed out I’ve ever been about Christmas was when I was 16 and I got my first ever job, working at M&S in Dundrum.

As soon as I started I kept hearing these myths about the Christmas Eve Waste Sale, where all the food that wasn’t sold on the 24th was marked down 90%.

Everyone I worked with kept telling me not to get anything in beforehand because there was so much left that you could get your whole Christmas meal after the shop had shut on the 24th.
Dad & I argued for weeks about it. Going back & forward on whether to get a turkey beforehand

Eventually, we decided we were going to risk it.

M&S Turkey

M&S Turkey

I was working until close on Xmas Eve anyway so my Dad said we might as well give it a go.

Before I went into work that day he told me “Just at least try and get a turkey, no matter what happens”

It was the most stressed I’ve ever been working in retail (which is saying something). I worked in Home & Gifts so every chance I got I would sneak over to Foods and see how busy it was, how many turkeys were left.

It was so busy I was convinced that there’s be nothing left.

Eventually closing time rolls around and all the staff clock out and wait for the sale to start.

Now comes my next heart attack. I thought it was just whoever was working Christmas Eve that was able to go but the entire workforce has trickled in since closing and is waiting.
I’m 16 years old and I feel like my family’s entire Christmas is riding on me.

I swear to myself that, no matter what happens, I’m going to come out of this with at least a turkey. No matter who I have to bludgeon to do it.
Even if it means not having a job on the 26th.

The main Foods manager comes out and ceremoniously announces that we can go in and I stick the head down and charge.

I don’t go quite as far as to trample anyone but I can’t say I wouldn’t have [if] it had come to it.

I’m convinced it’s going to be an all out brawl and…

It’s like something out of a Harry Potter Christmas scene or the end of Fantastic Mr. Fox.

There is *so* much food left. Everyone there could have taken 2 turkeys and there still would have been some left.This was Christmas 2006 btw. The height of the Celtic tiger.

I grab a Turkey the size of an American toddler and then I’m just kind of at a loss.

There’s really was so much left over. I ended up grabbing sausage stuffing, croquette potatoes, duck-fat roasters and candied parsnips and carrots.

I start to drift towards the tills and manager asks me what I’m doing.

I think I’ve taken too much, there’s some spending limit I haven’t heard of.

Instead he’s asking me why I’m wasting food and throws pork crackling and sticky toffee pudding into my basket.

I go to the till, expecting this to be the big reveal where it will actually end up costing me my entire month’s pay.

It costs 23 euro.

Now my only problem is that I have about 16 kg worth of food and I’ve arranged to meet my dad 2km away because Dundrum parking is extortion

M&S Christmas food

Source: M&S

There’s also no point of ringing him and asking him to come closer because my Dad comes home from work every day and puts his phone in the kitchen drawer & that’s where it stays until he leaves for work the next morning.

Does this defeat the purpose of a mobile?

Yes, yes it does

Anyway. I schlepp this bounty all the way to where we are supposed to meet and I see that he is literally pacing, at 11.00 Pm in December, outside his car.

He sees me and he looks like a husband waiting for his wife’s operation results.

When we went through the shopping bags in the boot of our Corolla I swear I got some inkling of what it must be like to win Wimbledon and then do that thing where you climb the stands to hug your parents.

He was instantly like “Rich, this is too much. How much did you spend? The whole idea is that this was supposed to cost less!”

I showed him the receipt and we ended up driving home blasting Springsteen the whole way.

Yes, Dad had to start prepping and cooking a turkey at 11.30 the night before but the next day we ate like Kings.

Or at the very least, people from Dalkey.

Anyways, the food was great and the best thing was that dad made a big deal about me providing it.

Any time someone said they liked something he’d give me an elbow in the ribs.

By the end of the dinner you’d have sworn I’d taken the job as some sort of Oceans 11-style long-con

Anyways, this Christmas is probably going to be a bit shit in comparison so it was nice to reminisce about a better one.

Craven, who said he had nothing to promote himself, asked that people who enjoyed the story consider donating to a Dublin charity focused on the wellbeing of children, so I’m assuming a donation to any similar local charity would meet the brief.