Ain’t No Cure for the Summertime News

Summer, I have decided, is a time for experimentation. When the thermometer hits 30 degrees Celsius, the only thing I want to dive deeply into is the Bras d’Or Lake, so this week, I’m going to try something a little different. Instead of covering one topic in depth, I’m going to touch on a bunch of topics in less detail. Call it the “Fast & Curious” approach to publication.

There’s no particular rhyme or reason to the order in which I’m presenting these items or the way in which I’ve grouped them, they are classicly random Spectator takes.


Mystery Owners

I was interested to read the Cape Breton Post‘s account of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s (ACOA) lawsuit against Ben Eoin Golf Club Limited and 3324714 Nova Scotia Limited.

The Post noted that none of ACOA’s claims had been tested in court, explained that the defendants had yet to file a response then provided an account of the case without once naming any of the people behind the companies being sued. You can find more detail (and context) in the Spectator‘s coverage, but for the record, Ben Eoin Golf Club Limited and 3324714 Nova Scotia Limited have identical boards consisting of:

  • Rodney Colbourne (President, Secretary)
  • Mike Kenny
  • Siva Thanamayooran
  • Troy Wilson
  • Steve MacDougall

Saltwire Q&A with Rodney Colbourne

Which isn’t to say these businessmen are never named in the Post. Rodney Colbourne, for example, gets a lot of sympathetic coverage, including this 16 August 2019 Q&A about the grand opening of The Lakes Golf Club and Resort which we now know, thanks to ACOA’s lawsuit, was published almost exactly a month after ACOA said no to the sale of the course.

That sympathetic coverage even extends to Colbourne’s progeny, but this requires a new item.


Selling Chic

Rodney Colbourne’s daughter Kaitlin was the subject of a recent Post puff-piece about her soon-to-open retail clothing outlet—the Hail and Hazel Boutique—on Charlotte Street in Sydney.

At a time when many of her generational cohort are weighed down with student debt and wondering if they will ever be able to live without roommates, the 28-year-old “entrepreneur” has pressed pause on an MBA to start a small business. The Post’s David Jala writes that she has the “support” of family without inquiring too deeply into the nature of this support, but does have the sense to note that:

For the record, her father is well-known Cape Breton businessman Rodney Colbourne, the president and co-founder of Offshore Technical Services Ltd. (OTS). He also owns several local car dealerships and has interests in other businesses including The Lakes Golf Club at Ben Eoin and the Cape Breton Eagles franchise of the Québec Major Junior Hockey League.

This gives Kaitlin Colbourne, who plans to sell “chic” things on Charlotte Street, the opportunity to sing her father’s praises:

He’s always been involved in business. His drive and determination as a business owner, paired with his love for Cape Breton and the local community, has always been something I have admired.

Post article on Kaitlin Colbourne

Colbourne reveals she chose the name Hail and Hazel because:

…she wanted a two-part name that would be both masculine and feminine. She said she just happens to like the word hail and that her eyes are hazel, hence the name.

That would make sense in German or Spanish, in which “hail” is a masculine noun—”hagel” and “granizo,” respectively. Not so much in English, which doesn’t assign gender to nouns. And definitely not in French, Italian and Gaelic, in which “hail” is feminine—”grêle,” “grandine” and “clach-mheallain,” respectively. (Apparently I am willing to do deep dives in hot weather as long as the subject is mildly ridiculous.)

Colbourne’s goal is to help those poor souls now forced to “drive four or five hours [to Halifax] to find a nice outfit or back-to-school clothing or a new wardrobe of office ware [sic].”

Which is a) a pretty serious diss of every single retail clothing store on Cape Breton Island and b) a very clear indication of her target demographic: people who would normally drive to Halifax to buy entire wardrobes.

Bonne chance, I guess?


A Little Help From His ‘Friends’

I need to begin this discussion by noting that I have not forgotten Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil’s abolition of school boards, centralization of healthcare and preference for running the province all by his lonesome. These things are all still fresh in my mind and frankly, I’ve always felt Tory Premier Tim Houston would have trouble topping them, but I was misunderestimating Tory Premier Tim Houston.

Yesterday, in a sort of “hold my beer” moment, he fired the heads of a bunch of  crown corporations and replaced them with his business buddies.

Left to right: Premier Tim Houston, Business Minister Suzanne Corkum-Greek, Public Works Minister Kim Masland, Service Nova Scotia Minister Colton LeBlanc. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

These people actually look like they’re wondering why they are not on vacation. Left to right: Premier Tim Houston, Business Minister Suzanne Corkum-Greek, Public Works Minister Kim Masland, Service Nova Scotia Minister Colton LeBlanc. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

It’s SO Tory—not only should everything be run like a business, it should be run by businessmen! I’m now imagining him looking around his Cabinet table, wishing he could replace everyone with the board of directors of Emera.

According to Jennifer Henderson in the Examiner, Houston  fired Laurel Broten and Malcolm Fraser, the CEOs of Nova Scotia Business Inc and Innovacorp, respectively, combined the agencies into one (Invest Nova Scotia), dismissed their boards and named Tom Hickey, who “started an offshore safety company that morphed into a traffic and construction business called Front-Line Safety” to run it until a real CEO can be selected.

He also fired Develop Nova Scotia head Jennifer Angel, combined the agency with Nova Scotia Lands to form Build Nova Scotia, dismissed their boards, and chose Wayne Crawley, “a seasoned entrepreneur who runs a venture capital firm called Venor and formerly held an executive position at Emera” to run it for the time being.

Houston told journalists he is “fans” of both entrepreneurs and considers them friends.

Isn’t giving your “friends” government jobs that pay $1500 a day (up to a maximum of $18,000 a month) the kind of thing that used to end political careers? When did this become okay? And why isn’t Houston on vacation like a normal person?

As Henderson notes:

Citizens who served as board members on government agencies are also being dismissed and the new agencies will report directly to a cabinet minister.

I haven’t had time to consider the actual repercussions of these agency mergers (and you know me and Innovacorp, if Houston had announced he was stuffing the entire agency into a burlap sack and dropping it off the Macdonald Bridge I probably wouldn’t have raised any objection) but this decision to cut citizens out of any supervisory role when it comes to agencies spending millions of public dollars and overseeing valuable public assets looks really bad to me.

I also think that, as an accountant and therefore, presumably, someone adept at math, Houston would see the value in showing his work: what did the review of these crown corporations reveal that convinced him head-chopping was in order? What improvements are these changes supposed to inspire? How are they expected to do this? I think the public has a right to know.


Just Say No?

Speaking of things I’d like to know, I would REALLY like to know which Nova Scotia MLAs voted against allowing Cape Breton Centre-Whitney Pier MLA Kendra Coombes to attend that emergency session of the legislature yesterday virtually.

Cape Breton Centre MLA Kendra Coombes with baby Isla.

Cape Breton Centre MLA Kendra Coombes with baby Isla.

As you have surely heard by now, the NS legislature held an emergency session yesterday to vote against giving themselves an automatic pay rise. Coombes, who gave birth to her second daughter by cesarean section on July 12, was advised by her doctor not to travel to Halifax (from Scotchtown, where she lives) so soon after the surgery, so she asked to be allowed to attend via video conferencing.

This ask was put to an informal vote by the 55 members of the legislature and at least one (but possibly more) voted “No.”

Jennifer Henderson has a detailed account of the story in the Examiner, including the happy ending, which saw MLAs voting during the actual session to allow Coombes to join. The resolution, introduced by Coombes’ fellow NDP MLA Susan LeBlanc (Dartmouth North) received unanimous consent, meaning the naysayer[s] either had an honest change of heart or didn’t care to be seen publicly voting like a relic.