Ain’t No Cure for the Summertime News (10.08.2022)


I missed Monday’s public meeting regarding CBRM electoral district boundaries and council size but was interested to read that, according to John Heseltine, the Stantec consultant hired by the municipality to make recommendations, 21.4% of the 400 people who responded to an online survey think CBRM should have six, rather than 12, councilors.

According to the Post‘s coverage:

Another 17.8 per cent want to stay with the status quo of 12, while 11.7 per cent responded that council should have 15 members.

I would really like to hear the rationale behind the 15-member council—wouldn’t that mean 16 people (when you added the mayor) voting on motions, opening the door to endless tied votes? Do roughly 50 CBRM residents  really think the problem with our council is that it’s too damn efficient?

CORRECTION: I’ve had my fun, but it turns out the actual numbers preferred by respondents were 12, 8 and 6. My thanks to the spectator who let me know.

But I guess I should be grateful no one seems to have advocated a return to our first post-amalgamation council of 21:

Source: Cape Breton Post (Click to enlarge)

My initial thought on council size (and I’m not wedded to this, so someone with a convincing counter-argument still has a chance to sway me) is that if council is doing what it’s supposed to be doing—that is, setting policy—then six councilors should be sufficient.

It also strikes me that part of the reason our council meetings are so long is that 12 people feel the need to speak—often more than once—on every motion, even though what they have to say frequently begins with, “I completely agree with my colleague…”

Speaking of which, I completely agree with Citizen Donnie Calabrese (who favors the reduction) who told the Post reducing the size of the council will probably mean councilor will become a full-time position. The implications of that are worth considering: for one thing, it means cutting council in half will probably not result in any great financial savings; for another, I suspect it would make our incumbency problem even worse.

Maybe it’s time to also consider term limits?


Bus Business

Writing about cruise lines and the Miners Museum this week got me to thinking about the question of ground transport, or  lack thereof, servicing cruise in Sydney.

It was an issue identified by the consultants who did the due diligence on the second berth back in 2017:

Key issues around the number and quality of motor coaches available to serve tourists and the quality of the “local experience” offered must at the same time be addressed to enable the full benefit of the second berth.

This got me surveying the bus (or motor coach) landscape in Nova Scotia and I found it had consolidated considerably since last I paid it any mind. I had missed the 2019 sale of the bus division of Dennis Campbell’s Ambassatours Grey Line (Ambassatour’s Absolute Charters) to Mike Cassidy’s Coach Atlantic Maritime Bus.

It’s a classic tale of free market competition serving the best interests of consumers.

Just kidding! As Cassidy told the CBC:

…as two competitors we sat down. We decided, let’s have Coach Atlantic Maritime Bus buy his bus division and we would be the bus provider for the Maritime provinces.

In August, the UARB granted Coach Atlantic a temporary license to operate up to 32 buses with a capacity of 51-58 passengers during peak cruise season (August 8 to October 31).

The license came with two conditions.

First, Coach Atlantic may only operate when “no other local carriers are available” (which will, presumably, protect the business of Carabin’s & Transoverland in CBRM).

Second, it is restricted to “cruise ships only and only under subcontract to Ambassatours. Coach Atlantic may not contact or contract directly with cruise ship lines.”

So Cassidy gets a near-monopoly on buses and Campbell gets a near-monopoly on cruise excursions and everyone is happy?


Private sector, public money

Earlier this year Cassidy, whose business took a big hit during COVID, received $900,000 from the Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI governments to continue operating what he himself described as an “essential service” on Northern and rural routes.

Coach Atlantic bus at Prevost factory

Source: Prevost

The CBC story about the subsidies notes that Cassidy also has a group of Senators going to bat for him in Ottawa, trying to secure federal support he doesn’t qualify for as a private operator:

Maritime Bus is currently asking the federal government and the provinces to contribute money so it can buy 25 clean diesel buses and three electric buses.

Under their proposal, Ottawa would be providing $8 million and the three Maritime provinces would be providing $2 million each. Maritime Bus would be investing $6 million.

How that jibes with this June 2022 story about Coach Atlantic Maritime Bus taking delivery of “10 Prevost H3-45 coaches, the first of 50 contracted for completion over the next five years,” I am not sure.

Just two months earlier, the Sainte-Claire, Quebec-based Prevost had received provincial funding for a five-year program to develop “a new 100% electric coach as well as a retrofit kit to convert diesel engines into electric propulsion systems.”

So, just as Coach Atlantic Maritime Bus receives the last of its 50 diesel buses, it will have the opportunity to convert them to electric buses?

But the real question is, can you be, at one and the same time, a for-profit company doing your best to buy up your competition AND a provider of essential services entitled to public funding? My guess is no, but I want to finish Paris Marx’s Road to Nowhere before I say anything more.