Q4 2021: Contracts, Cruise and Cabot

The last three months of 2021 found me, as always, following CBRM happenings — particularly around waterfront development and cruise news — but also looking further afield at stories with local angles or implications. In particular, I got interested in how some Saint Lucians were responding to the arrival of Ben Cowan-Dewar, the man behind Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs, who is now busy turning a swath of coastal property on that island nation into Cabot Saint Lucia. And I just couldn’t stop wondering about Innovacorp…

 

OCTOBER

Sparks flew during an October presentation to CBRM council by Marty Chernin, of Harbour Royale Development Ltd, whose pre-development agreement for the Sydney waterfront expired in July.

Chernin wanted to cut a new deal with the CBRM whereby he would buy the municipal land previously discussed as a library site and develop it (or sit on it) in conjunction with his own waterfront property. It came out during the meeting that Chernin had discussed the proposal with regional solicitor Demetri Kachafanas and CAO Marie Walsh who had brought it to an in camera meeting with council. Council refused to discuss it in camera, which is how it came to be on the agenda of the October meeting.

The big reveal in the next day’s Post was that Chernin had “worked out an agreement” with Kachafanas and Walsh and was so put out when council refused to rubber stamp it — decided instead to issue a new request for proposals — that he announced he would never develop another thing in CBRM. (I keep thinking of a line I once heard — but cannot trace — about the founding fathers of Cleveland, namely, that if they could have made their fortunes by not founding Cleveland, they would have not founded Cleveland.)

Later in the month, I cataloged a number of the “hot takes” I’d seen on the Chernin decision.

Martin Chernin

Martin Chernin addressing CBRM council (Dwight Rudderham in background), 12 October 2021.

I tried a new approach to council coverage, writing the first part of my story based on information in the meeting agenda, then updating it with information from the actual meeting. It worked pretty well for Fire Chief Michael Seth’s October presentation about Fire Services sustainability.

During that same meeting, council approved a plan to construct a pedway across the Esplanade, connecting a Marconi building to be located on one side of the street with the bulk of the campus on the water side. (The jury is still out, but man, that waterfront building is close to the street. I’m afraid the final effect of the two new buildings and the pedway is going to be kind of oppressive.)

I said farewell to Robert Devet of the Nova Scotia Advocate — the tyrant’s foe, the people’s friend — who died suddenly in October. But I am pleased to report that one of his longtime contributors, Kendall Worth, has launched a blog — Journalism for What Matters — where he will continue the work he began with the Advocate.

October was also the beginning of my fascination with Cabot Saint Lucia, Ben Cowan-Dewar’s newest golf resort and real estate development. I found the similarities between the Saint Lucian and Cape Breton projects interesting, particularly around issues like government assistance.

Cabot Saint Lucia site

Cabot Saint Lucia site.

I seriously considered putting this one in the “entertainment” section because it really was entertaining: Barry Sheehy and Albert Barbusci updated their Novaporte website. Sheehy also wrote an opinion piece about congestion at US ports without — hand to heart — once mentioning COVID.

At the end of the month, CBRM council had the kind of meeting Professor Tom Urbaniak had suggested they have to shorten the agendas of their regular monthly sessions: an information session on solid waste. I am a sucker for municipal infrastructure and services, so I totally enjoyed this.

My new council coverage approach — write the first half from the agenda, write the second half from the meeting — backfired on me in October when I wrote (at some length) about the return of a district energy project to council, only to have that item dropped from the agenda of the actual meeting.

 

NOVEMBER

I returned to Cabot Saint Lucia in November, with stories about the concerns raised by critics of the project, including issues around water, history and archeology; and beach access.

That same week, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia (CCPA-NS) released its Living Wage in Nova Scotia 2021 report, calculating that a living wage in CBRM is $18.45/hour.

I updated readers on the Bridging Finance situation, with a little side trip into the world of Big 4 Accounting Firms Behaving Badly.

The Port of Sydney board voted to publish its minutes on its website and began with the August minutes because, as I pointed out, they hadn’t voted to publish their minutes in a timely fashion.

But here’s an actual update on those minutes — as I was putting this end-of-year piece together, I checked to see whether the port board had posted any new minutes and sure enough, they’ve posted the minutes from their October meeting (no idea what happened to the September minutes) during which it was revealed that Novaporte “has established an office in Sydney and hired one local employee on a consultant basis.” This information was shared by CEO Marlene Usher, who surely knows “employees” and “consultants” are not the same thing. The address Novaporte gives for its Sydney office is 90 Esplanade i.e. the old Fisheries Building i.e. the building where the Port of Sydney has offices. I will do my best to discover who this mystery employee/consultant is.

The port board chair, James Kerr, along with CEO Marlene Usher presented to council in November and I covered it in some detail although I complained vociferously about their illegible visual aids:

BA Cruise Recovery Dashboard

CBRM re-started its sign by-law consultations and received an application to change the zoning for a portion of the Harbourside Commercial Park.

Innovacorp sent me a list of companies in which it has invested since 2011 and told me the amounts invested in each but refused to divulge the current status of each of these companies, so I’ve been forced to traipse all over the interwebs trying to find out what happened to each of them. I had some fun with the information they did deign to share with me, though, first just listing all the investments and the people involved with them; then counting up how many women were involved with the companies they funded. I also reported that the US Securities and Exchange Commission had subpoenaed Meta Materials in relation to its reverse takeover of Torchlight.

I stumbled across a “recovery of cruise” presentation from November 2020 that was worth the time it took me to watch it and read the CCPA’s 2021 Child and Family Poverty Report for Nova Scotia, which made for sad reading.

CBRM council held a special session on affordable housing and I found it very interesting, especially a presentation by New Dawn’s Erika Shea about the actual costs associated with building and maintaining rental properties.

I waved goodbye to Michael Merritt, the erstwhile CBRM CAO who left us for Olds, Alberta in 2017 and is now leaving Olds for retirement.

I also discovered an interesting YouTube channel — Engineering with Rosie — that helped me make sense of what I was reading about windmills and green hydrogen in the provincial press.

 

DECEMBER

I continued my investigation of Innovacorp with a feature on the venture capital fund’s successful exits — of which there have been very few over the years — and a look at how the fund just stops talking about investments that fail to thrive.

And following up on council’s discussion of affordable housing, during which the possibility of turning the Northside General Hospital into housing was raised, I looked at an example of a hospital becoming housing for seniors.

I discovered no decision has yet been made on location of the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier and I found out who formed the CBRM’s sign by-law working group (mostly representatives of the municipality and the business community).

Which brings us to today (Wednesday) as I’m about to call it a year.

I’ll be back on Friday with Fast & Curious (which will probably contain some coverage of last night’s council meeting), I’ll take a couple of weeks off for the holidays and then, in January 2022, I’ll be back to start it all over again — hope to see you all here!