Answers on Port File Unlikely Before Election

Residents have been waiting since 2016 for CBRM administrators to release secretive details of business dealings between the various parties involved in the on-again-off-again Sydney container terminal saga.

The “Port file” has a complicated history, involving CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke, several former and current councillors, local and foreign consultants, Chinese investors, Ontario marketers, the International Longshoremen’s Association, and countless others with possible ties.

To be clear – there is no accusation or insinuation that the CBRM mayor, council, or administration is hiding evidence of wrong-doing. But the lack of transparency on the subject was enough in 2016 to lead private citizens to file an official request (under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy act – FOIPOP) compelling the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to release upwards of 60,000 pages of documents; information that so far has been kept from the public eye.

Suspicions, understandably, began to grow as the FOIPOP request was met by repeated delays and a $43,000 bill from CBRM to prepare photocopies of the documents. 1.

The private citizens, who for obvious reasons wish to remain un-named, hired Sydney lawyer Guy LaFosse to represent them and to escalate the request to the Nova Scotia Privacy Commissioner’s Office.

According CBC News 2., the information requested includes:

  • copies of texts, emails and contracts surrounding the port development
  • employment contracts for
    • (then) chief administrative officer Michael Merritt
    • Port of Sydney CEO Marlene Usher
    • Mark Bettens and Christina Lamey, who were both hand picked to work in the mayor’s office.
  • information (municipal expense claims and contracts) on CBRM’s dealings with
    • Port of Sydney Development Corporation
    • Sydney Harbour Investment Partners (formerly known as HPDP)
    • the now-defunct economic development agency Business Cape Breton
    • China Communications Construction Company

The latest update (that I am aware of) from the privacy commissioner’s office came in March 2019, stating only that the office is dealing with a backlog of requests. 3.

Election Issue

Although highly unlikely, if the request were to be fulfilled and the documents were released by the first week of October it could have a profound effect on outcome of the 2020 municipal election.

With the 2020 CBRM election only a month away, issues of transparency are top-of-mind among voters. Candidates who are willing to lobby on behalf of residents for the release of the Port documents will certainly earn points at the polls.


Sources:

  1. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/cbrm-43k-freedom-of-information-request-1.3857965
  2. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/cbrm-port-freedom-of-information-1.4007415
  3. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/freedom-of-information-request-on-sydney-port-development-1.5068906

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