Q3 2021: Extensions, Elections and Unicorns

My summer coverage focused on the August provincial election, although I also found time to read Barry Sheehy’s thoughts on ports and Martin Chernin’s case for extending his waterfront development contract (not exactly beach reading, but not entirely devoid of entertainment value either). September found me looking into the problem with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s rental market data for CBRM and encountering my first unicorn.



Publishing bi-weekly this month, I dragged myself away from the beach long enough to compare and contrast Albert Barbusci’s container terminal project with another project funded by Bridging Finance — Sean McCoshen’s controversial Alaska to Alberta (A2A) railway.

I also played a game of “Okay, Stop” — the first of 2021, I do believe — with Martin Chernin’s letter to council requesting another extension to his pre-development contract for the Sydney waterfront (a request council turned down).

Harbour Royale Development Ltd's Sydney waterfront plan.

Harbour Royale Development Ltd’s Sydney waterfront plan. Note casino located in expanded Holiday Inn.

And I took issue with much of what port promoter Barry Sheehy had to say in one of hisĀ  trademark Cape Breton Post screeds.

I tried to do some provincial election coverage but even I will admit, it was half-hearted. (Summer elections suck.)

And finally, I bid farewell to a famous Cape Bretoner — and friend of the SpectatorKenzie MacNeil.



Candidates and Map CB East 2021 electionsI took another swing at election coverage in August, sending a list of questions to candidates in each of the Cape Breton ridings and getting answers back from everyone except: Keith Bain and Nadine Bernard in Cape Breton the Lakes, Derek Mombourquette in Sydney-Membertou and John White in Glace Bay-Dominion.

Bain, Mombourquette and White all won, despite failing to reply. But Kendra Coombes (Cape Breton Centre-Whitney Pier), Brian Comer (Cape Breton East) and Fred Tilley (Northside-Westmount) also won — and they did reply So the jury is still out on whether coverage in the Spectator is necessary to victory.

My favorite part of last summer’s election, hands down, was reviewing what I dubbed “Port Fest ’21,” a flurry of pro-container terminal op-eds from “all the usual suspects,” including port promoter Barry Sheehy, Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Kathleen Yurchesyn, Port of Sydney CEO Marlene Usher, Membertou Chief Terry Paul and District 5 Councilor Eldon MacDonald.

Elsewhere, I confirmed (after a typically drawn out game of tag with the CBRM) that Mark Bettens, former executive assistant to Mayor Cecil Clarke, had returned to CBRM Fire and Emergency Services after an eight-year absence. I also reported that Rogers had purchased Seaside Communications.

I expressed cautious optimism that Tim Houston, elected premier on August 17, might actually make good on a promise to give order-making power to Nova Scotia’s privacy officer. (The caution proved better placed than the optimism — in November, Houston pushed action on this item to the spring sitting of the house and it’s a well established fact that the longer a government is in power, the less likely it is to give order-making power to its privacy officer.)

I also reported on the CBRM’s decision to bid for the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier — at least, I tried to, but details of the bid were never made public.



September found me complaining, to no avail, about the CBRM’s refusal to divulge details of its Brier bid while simultaneously declaring “Right to Know Week” in the municipality.

I also looked into an interesting issue brought up during that month’s regular council meeting, namely, the problem with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s rental market data for smaller regions (including the CBRM).

And I added to the growing body of work debunking business owners’ claims that CERB and EI were destroying people’s will to work.

I looked into the provincial government’s plan to offer on-site daycare for workers in long-term care facilities.

And then…I began investigating Innovacorp’s “Unicorn,” Meta Materials, the Dartmouth-based producer of “nanomaterials” that went public via a reverse takeover with a Texas-based oil and gas company and ended up with a market cap just north of $1 billion (the definition of a “unicorn”). Innovacorp’s $3 million investment returned $104 million, and most mainstream news outlets greeted this with unalloyed joy, but I found the circumstances around that listing more than passing strange. In fact, I continued to dig into that Innovacorp story in September like it was my job or something.

I also considered what CBRM could do with the extra money it was poised to receive from the province and tracked a COVID vax rumor.