Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Courthouse Dreams

We discovered during budget talks on Tuesday that CBRM is considering the possibility  of turning the former Cape Breton County courthouse in Wentworth Park into the new central library.

I am trying not to get my hopes up too high as I write this because there are a number of steps to be taken before this could become a reality. Mayor Amanda McDougall told me these include ensuring the federal government, which owns the building is interested in divesting it; completing a procurement process (including consultations with First Nations); and verifying the building is suitable for a public library.

As the Post reported on Thursday, at 33,000 square feet, the courthouse is significantly bigger than the 22,000-square foot McConnell library it will replace, but significantly smaller than the 40,000- to 45,000-square foot facility called for in the February 2021 Service, Program and Operational Plan for the new library. (The 45,000-square foot estimate is about 21% higher than was originally estimated in a 2016 library study largely because the new estimate envisages a barrier-free building in keeping with the province’s Accessibility Act.)

Estimate for New Central CBRM Library

Source: Sydney Central Library Study: Service, Programs and Operational Plan


Mayor McDougall said the municipality has turned to the architectural firm/engineers responsible for Truro’s new library — who are now working on the Charlottetown Central Library — for an opinion on the suitability of the courthouse. I had to consult the story I wrote about Truro’s library back in 2019 to remind myself that the team behind it was assembled by L&R Construction and included:

…MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects [the firm that designed the ambitious Tartan Downs project], whose credits include the University of Toronto Library and the Kentville Library; PDI Engineering Group, whose credits include the MacRae Library (at the Dalhousie Agricultural College in Truro); and MCW Maricor, a mechanical and electrical firm whose credits include the Commons/Library at the University of New Brunswick, the Centennial Library in Winnipeg and the City Library in North Vancouver.

Re-reading that story reminded me that Truro’s journey to a new library was just as long and winding as the CBRM’s has been. The community had to choose between two possibilities — the conversion of the old Normal College (built in 1878) and the conversion of a former hat factory. The Normal College was dismissed (more than once) as unsuitable for a library, but was ultimately converted into a 19,814 square-foot facility (an extension, including a basement, was added) fronted by an outdoor skating rink. Looking at the completed project, it’s hard to believe anything could be better than this:

Civic Square Skating Rink, Truro

McDougall says the CBRM is also considering renovating the existing McConnell Library, a possibility that was considered but dismissed in an early library study.

She says once they’ve finalized the procurement process for the courthouse with the federal government, they will put out a call for public feedback on the locations under consideration — or even possible alternative locations — after which council will hold a special meeting to confirm the direction it wants to take on a new facility.

I have to say, I feel more hopeful about our prospects for a new library than I have in at least three years.

I really like the idea of bookending our downtown with creatively repurposed buildings — the convent at one end and the courthouse at the other. I like that (provided the boardwalk is restored in front of the Marconi) you could walk from one to the other via the boardwalk (taking the tunnel from the boardwalk into the park). I like that the courthouse, even were it expanded, would still be surrounded by open space (so different from the Marconi Campus which looks like 10 pounds of potatoes shoved into a five-pound bag). And I like that having the central library there would undoubtedly mean more people using Wentworth Park.

In fact, I walked through the park yesterday and, following the example of two people who’d told me they’d done the same thing this week, I climbed the steps at the courthouse and took in the view. It was so easy to picture people sitting there reading that I wondered why the courthouse had never occurred to me as a potential library location — and I felt grateful it had occurred to someone.

Whatever comes of this possibility, the fact that it’s even been raised feels like progress to me.

P.S. Dolores Campbell will have more on the library in next week’s edition.


OOE Footnote

In this week’s update on One Ocean Expeditions (OOE), the struggling polar cruise operator that had once planned to make Sydney its home port, I noted that OOE had failed to make payments to a fund to be used to reimburse its creditors. This fund was part of OOE’s restructuring proposal which had been approved by its creditors and a British Columbia court and which had allowed it to escape bankruptcy.

But as OOE defaulted on its payment and did nothing to “remedy” the situation within the 30 days allowed by law, PwC, its trustee, announced its intention to “apply for a discharge without annulling the proposal,” leaving creditors to “take proceedings to annul the proposal and place One Ocean Expeditions Inc in bankruptcy at their own expense.”

I had asked a bankruptcy specialist in British Columbia about the implications of this and I received an answer after I published on Wednesday, so I’m going to add a footnote to the story today.

Basically, as OOE defaulted on its proposal and did nothing to remedy the default, the proposal process is over. OOE can continue operating and trying to pay its bills, but its creditors can now sue it or go to court to have it declared bankrupt.

I think it unlikely creditors will pursue OOE, which has no real assets, in the courts. So I guess I also don’t rule out Prossin showing up in Sydney harbor with his Zodiacs.

Keep your eyes peeled…


‘Tis the season

Okay, it’s not actually beginning to look a lot like Christmas (thank goodness) but Ron Caplan of Breton Books has put out a call for Christmas stories for Book 9 of Cape Breton’s Christmas, the latest in a series that has become “a genuine Christmas tradition, and helps support Feed Nova Scotia.”

Caplan writes:

Everyone who has a story in the book will receive a gift copy of Cape Breton’s Christmas, Book 9. All the royalties from sale of the book will again be donated to Feed Nova Scotia through the annual CBC Radio “Light Up A Life” project. For the record, this project has donated over $7000 to Feed Nova Scotia.

Your story can be happy or sad or both. It can have happened recently or long ago, on Cape Breton Island or somewhere away. You can tell the story of the Christmas that almost did not happen, or of a surprise Christmas among strangers, or of the year your family created once again the traditional Christmas your parents provided for you many years ago.  Your story can be true personal experience or a good story you’ve heard, or even a story you’ve made up.

I wonder if he’d accept a story about the heavy garbage collection—also known as “Cape Breton Christmas?” (If you like that idea, it’s yours, with my compliments.)

Heavy garbage (Photo via goCapeBreton

Cape Breton Christmas? (Photo via goCapeBreton)

Caplan says the “absolute deadline” for submissions is September but “people are sending in stories now” so not beat the Christmas rush and submit your Christmas stories and memories by email to Ronald Caplan at or by snail mail to:

Breton Books
Cabot Trail
Wreck Cove, NS B0C 1H0