CBRM ‘Priorities’ List Has Gaps

CBRM council met this morning to discuss the results of its March 2021 closed-door, strategy-setting “workshops” at the Lakes Golf Club and Resort in Ben Eoin.

Apparently, during the sessions, council articulated our vision:

CBRM Vision

(I can’t wait until Tim Bousquet sees that — “vibrant” and “innovation” are two of his favorite words. Personally, I’m disappointed they didn’t work in “blockchain” and “disruption.”)

They also came up with a “mission”:


That is…really not inspiring. Especially the “cost-effective” part.

And they chose a list of nouns they feel express our “Values” (and managed to get “innovative” in there again):


If this all seems like the kind of stuff corporations have been doing since the ’90s it’s because it’s the kind of stuff corporations have been doing since the ’90s.



In addition to having visions and defining missions and choosing nouns, council also made a list of its five priority areas but didn’t have enough time to set out any concomitant “actions,” so these have been drafted over the past two months by Mayor Amanda McDougall, CAO Marie Walsh, Deputy CAO John MacKinnon and the Cape Breton Partnership and compiled by the workshop facilitators — Alyce MacLean of Common Good Solutions Cape Breton and Chloe Donatelli of Common Good Solutions in Halifax.

Remember, these priorities — which MacLean admitted could probably all fit under the heading “economic development” — were drafted after council heard from a list of presenters that seemed to tilt heavily in favor of the business community. (The Post‘s summary of the guest list included ” Carla Arsenault, Cape Breton Partnership chief executive; Kathleen Yurchesyn, CEO of the Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce; John Whalley, New Dawn Enterprises vice-president of business and finance and Brad Jacobs, general manager from the Colbourne Auto Group.) Here then, in order of importance, are the CBRM’s priorities:

CBRM top 5 priorities

As I write, a “heat dome” has settled over Western Canada, bringing with it unprecedentedly high temperatures and the Financial Post is reporting that “housing affordability hasn’t been this bad in Canada in 31 years” and yet, climate change and affordable housing don’t make this list of municipal “priorities.” Neither does tackling the municipality’s high rate of poverty. Nor were any of these raised during today’s meeting. In fact, District 4 Councilor Steve Gillespie noted that they had “virtually all agreed” on their top five priorities in March and he was pleased to see them so accurately reflected in the summary.

Gillespie also expressed the opinion that the key to all these priorities is a municipal charter, at which point CAO Marie Walsh stepped in with a bucket of cold water, explaining that she and MacKinnon had “met with the province yesterday” and were basically told to forget about a charter. Or as she put it to council, “Don’t get too caught up on an actual charter.” Instead, they should figure out what it is they want to do and are prevented from doing under the Municipal Government Act (MGA) and look for amendments to the Act — like the one that has opened the door to the CBRM leasing land to Albert Barbusci for 99 years.


Waste not

As for the actions attached to each priority item, councilors didn’t discuss them at all, although, as noted, they were added after the workshops and councilors presumably hadn’t seen them before. And only one councilor suggested an addition — District 6 Councilor Glenn Paruch wondered if they shouldn’t make some mention of accessibility, given the number of people in the municipality with disabilities.

But I thought those actions rated some discussion when I first saw them and now that I know their chief architects were the CAO, Deputy CAO and the Cape Breton Partnership, I’m really disappointed councilors didn’t see fit to question any of them.

Look, for example, at the “actions” listed under “Diversified Revenue Sources”:

Diversified Revenue Sources -- CBRM

The first is a given — of course the municipality has to work with other levels of government to “access new funds.”

But at least two others have the warning bells ringing in Spectator headquarters.

We’re going to get into the “waste disposal” business? Medical waste disposal systems, international waste, port-related waste, biosolids and waste-to-energy processes? My first question is: did somebody pitch this during those March workshops and if so, who? (I should know the answer to that question. This is a textbook example of why those meetings should have been open to the public).

If no one pitched waste disposal as a potential revenue source, then where did the Mayor, Walsh, MacKinnon and the Cape Breton Partnership get this idea?

Second question: what is “international waste?”

I have used the term in the past to refer to waste from cruise ships but that would seem to be covered by “port-related waste.” (And I’ve written at length about what’s involved in handling “port-related” waste — we’d need a special facility and it’s an open question whether we would generate enough in fees from cruise ships and other vessels to justify its expense). So what is “international waste?” It couldn’t mean nuclear waste, could it? I know that sounds like something straight from the tinfoil hat department and I would never normally go there, but our port promoter and his international advisor were caught earlier this year plotting to bury Japanese nuclear waste in Labrador, so forgive me if I’m a little jumpy on the subject.

That reference to “waste-to-energy” processes is not, as I initially thought, a reference to another Barbusci scheme — his plan to bring a Michigan-based company, QCI LLC, to his “logistics park.” QCI has an untested “waste-to-fuel” technology. Waste-to-energy means burning garbage to create steam and electricity.

As for “fees for services” I would very much like to have heard some discussion on this subject, given that such fees hit low-income people hardest and CBRM has a high proportion of low-income people.

The silence from councilors in the face of all these proposals was curious, to say the least.


Public participation

As I write, 31 people have viewed today’s meeting on YouTube, and at least one of them noticed, as I did, that the two “deliverables” associated with the in camera workshops were “an external deliverable to share with the public to capture the most important outcomes” and “a more detailed internal document.”

Why should this “more detailed” document be off limits to the public?

And speaking of the public, the main takeaway from today’s 50-minute meeting was that council must now go to it for “feedback” and “input” on its strategic priorities. The mayor says they will “reach out to the community” to make sure they, as a council, “are on the right path.”

Although this doesn’t necessarily mean they will change any of their stated priorities. McDougall said, “the spirit of consultation is not necessarily to change things,”  it’s about “making sure everyone is aware of how we move forward.”

Everyone seemed very happy with their strategic plan this morning. It will be interesting to see if the public shares the enthusiasm.