FOIPOP Findings: Hidden Agendas

I’ve been bellyaching for years about how little information we were ever given about Mayor Cecil Clarke’s travel in support of the port project. His expense reports were notoriously shy on detail, as illustrated by this 2018 entry in which he doesn’t even reveal the city in which his “Port Development Meeting” has taken place:

So it was interesting to find, in the port documents I received from CBRM, a couple of actual agendas for meetings in Montreal in 2014 and 2015. I am going to go over them in detail, but before I do, a word on the response to what I’ve discovered so far.

I recently went back and watched Cape Breton Canso MP Mike Kelloway’s presentation to CBRM council (January 26) and realized that nothing I’ve discovered in these documents — not the breakdown of the $1.2 million “investment” in the project by our port promoters, not the utter lack of interest in the project from CN, not the questionable logic of allowing the Chinese state to own over 50% of a Canadian container terminal — has put a dent in some politicians’ enthusiasm for (and belief in) the project.

Kelloway told council he understood that the people behind Novaporte (Albert Barbusci and Barry Sheehy) were “working very hard” to bring it to fruition, and District 5 Councilor Eldon MacDonald said that a “very, very strong case” was being “put forward” for the port (adding an “as you know” to Kelloway). Is MacDonald simply referencing the case we’re all familiar with or are he and Kelloway privy to some information the rest of us are not? If so, in what forum did they receive this information? Because Barbusci and Sheehy have not, to my knowledge, updated CBRM council on the status of the project since last year. And they certainly haven’t been keeping the general public informed.

MacDonald also suggested we could tap into federal infrastructure funds for both a new central library and “across the harbor” a container terminal. This had me scratching my head, given the container terminal — we’ve been assured repeatedly — is a private sector development. I suppose MacDonald might have been referencing rail although, as I keep repeating in that delightful way I have, the idea that Barbusci has succeeded in attracting a shipper to our harbor but can’t interest the private sector owner of the rail line in the business beggars belief.

We’ve been told for the past five years that there is a “powerful case” for the container port project, and yet, the container port is no closer to reality now than it was in 2015, when CBRM signed its ill-conceived agreement with Barbusci and Sheehy.

If there is actually a new development on the file, shouldn’t the citizens of CBRM know about it? Am I going to have to submit another FOIPOP and wait another five years to discover what this is all about?

The very thought is exhausting.

So let’s forget about it for now and go to Montreal.


August 2014

Here’s the first agenda I found. It’s in an email from Barbusci to Mike Moore (the consultant working on the port file through Business Cape Breton), Mark Bettens (Clarke’s executive assistant), John Whalley (economic development manager of CBRM), Barry Sheehy and Clarke:



I’ve already touched on Pierre Anctil and Fiera Capital, the first meeting of the day, and the Dentons connection — which would apparently lead to Jean Chrétien becoming Harbor Port Development Partners’ “international advisor” — has also been well documented, which leaves PSP (possibly, the meeting wasn’t actually confirmed) and “John Cammett and his colleagues at Aeroterm”

Aeroterm is a wholly owned subsidiary of Maryland-based Realterm, of which Cammett is the co-founder. Realterm, in its own words, is:

…a value-added real estate operator executing niche private equity strategies at the intersection of the global supply chain and evolving consumption trends. Realterm currently manages over $5.5 billion in assets through five logistics-oriented private equity fund series: Realterm Airport Logistics Properties (RALP), an open-end fund investing into high flow through on-airport logistics real estate throughout North America; Realterm Logistics Income Fund (RLIF), an open-end, core-plus fund, and the Realterm Logistics Fund (RLF) series, a closed-end, value-added fund series, both of which invest into high flow through surface transportation logistics real estate throughout the U.S.; Realterm Europe Logistics Fund (RELF), a closed-end, value-added fund series investing into high flow through transportation logistics real estate throughout Europe; and IndoSpace Logistics Parks (ILP), a closed-end, opportunistic fund series investing into warehouse and logistics real estate throughout the top industrial markets in India.

My guess is Barbusci hoped to involve Realterm in the “Novazone” logistics park, but it’s just a guess.

PSP Investments is a Montreal-based pension investment manager. I don’t know whether this meeting ever took place, but I do know PSP has never figured in any of Barbusci’s press releases, nor has it ever been listed as a “partner” on the Novaporte website, so I’m guessing even if the meeting took place, it didn’t amount to anything.

I do not know anything about the “group from Europe with connections to Dubai,” but, again, no such group has ever figured in Barbusci’s press releases or partners lists.


April 2015

Eight months later, Barbusci had drafted another Montreal agenda, which he sent off to Moore, Christina Lamey (Clarke’s communications person) and Sheehy:



I was struck by the first meeting on the list — Tony Messina from Westmont Hospitality Group.

Westmont owns the Holiday Inn in Sydney. What, you may ask, does the Holiday Inn have to do with the container terminal/logistics park project?

I’m so glad you asked. You see, in May 2014, Barbusci sent an email to Sheehy (who forwarded it to the mayor and others) in which he referenced a meeting between Dundee Capital Markets and CBRM planned for June, then said:

It is important to emphasis [sic] in your discussions with CBRM that our investment partners, including and especially Dundee, have an interest in building out the entire harbor master plan [emphasis Barbusci’s] beginning with the Container Terminal. Beyond the first and second plan of the container terminal we see multiple development opportunities which we presume CBRM has already built into their Master Plan, in some form or other.

Okay, so, what strikes me first about that is that Barbusci doesn’t seem to have read the Master Plan — otherwise, wouldn’t he know what had been “built into it?”

And second, it’s been a long time since I read the Master Plan myself, so I went back to have a look at the developments it envisaged and it was instructive:

Action Plan Sydney Harbour Master Plan

Action Plan Sydney Harbour Master Plan


Do you notice that “get partners for container terminal” was supposed to precede “deepen channel?” That before we dredged anything, we were supposed to have had “funding, rail, terminal operator, shipping co” all lined up? That the dredging was supposed to have been “coordinated” with the construction of the first phase of the container terminal?

How did that become, “If you dredge it, they will come?”

Do you notice that “Build Second Berth” was not only part of the long-term plan, it was supposed to have been funded, in part, by the private sector? (The cruise lines, perhaps?)

Do you notice that everything that’s been checked off this list has been accomplished with public money?

Okay, I’m getting riled up, must focus on the matter at hand, which is the very final item in the long-term action plan. In addition to building the second berth it says: “Develop adjoining parcels near Sydney cruise facility” i.e. develop the Sydney waterfront. Presumably, this was the type of development Barbusci and Dundee had in mind in 2015.

But Dundee disappeared from the mix and in 2018, when the CBRM put out a tender for the development of the waterfront, the only bidder was a “development group” led by Martin Chernin’s Harbour Royale Development Ltd. And who was involved in this group? Well, according to the Cape Breton Post:

The development group includes Westmount Hotel Group, the Canderel Group, Ambassatours Gray Line, Trifos Design Consultants and CBCL Ltd.

HRDL spelled it wrong, but the reference is to the Westmont Hospitality Group (the paper makes the connection to the Holiday Inn), although how we got from a 2015 meeting in Montreal and a scheme involving Dundee Capital Markets to this 2018 “development group” I can’t tell you.



“Logistech” is a misspelling of “Logistec,” where Madeleine Paquin is president and CEO. The name sounded familiar to me and I realized Rick Grant had quoted her in this 2018 story about then provincial Tory leadership candidate Cecil Clarke.

Paquin had given a keynote address at a trade conference during which she’d said any investment in Canadian ports should “focus on the nation’s existing key ports – Montreal, Halifax, Vancouver and Prince Rupert.”

Which suggests she wasn’t much interested in CBRM’s plans for a greenfield container terminal.


Minister Raitt

Bets as to whether the 8:30AM “possible quick meet with Minister Rait [sic] before heading to CN” took place? These are the CN meetings I discussed at length in a previous article, and I do not get the impression Raitt was in attendance.


Real Estate

CLV Group is an Ontario-based real estate company; Christophe Folla is real estate broker with Sutton, another real estate developer; and Albert Mashaal is the president of Yale Properties, a Montreal-based real estate developer.

None of them seems to have taken the bait, but Barbusci would eventually get Montreal-based real estate developer Jonathan Wener of Canderel involved in the port project. (Although that involvement seems to be over.)

I spent a lot of time wondering why Barbusci was so interested in getting real estate developers involved in a container port/logistics park project until it occurred to me that it could just be that he knows a lot of Montreal real estate developers and not so many container port/logistics park developers.


John Rae, Power Corporation

John Rae is former Liberal leader Bob Rae’s older brother. He served as executive assistant to Jean Chrétien from 1967 to 1971, when Chrétien was a minister in first Lester Pearson, then Pierre Trudeau’s cabinet. Rae also served as campaign chair for Chrétien’s two leadership campaigns, in 1984 and 1990, and as national campaign coordinator for the 1993, 1997 and 2000 Liberal federal election campaigns.

Power Corporation, which he joined in 1971 and where he remained until 2016, is one of Canada’s largest financial services companies, built by Paul Desmarais.

Desmerais’ son André is married to Chrétien’s daughter.

André Desmerais headed the China Canada Business Council for many years and today, the chair is held by Olivier Desmarais (André’s son, Chrétien’s grandson) senior VP at Power Corporation. (Also on the executive? Former Liberal MP and Treasury Secretary Scott Brison.)




In a previous article I speculated that Barbusci’s “global Rolodex” had got the CBRM port team a meeting with CN executive Fiona Murray, but I now think part of what the Port of Sydney paid Bechtel for was organizing this meeting — although my conclusion still stands, whoever organized the meeting with Murray was unable to get Team Port into a room with the people who mattered at CN.


Dundee Capital Markets

Tune in next week…


Featured image: Five-frame panorama of Montreal from Mont Royale, 2017, by Arild Vågen via Wikimedia Commons.