Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Sydney Port Project - Mary Campbell's Annoying Questions


I feel that Mary Campbell's writing style does not detract from the information she has been sharing. It may not be a style that Mr. Menke appreciates, but that is certainly ok. I think that reporting information, asking questions and challenging project planning is a good thing and falls squarely in the realm of reporting.  Adding pressure to the prose is even more important where public funds are in play.

Mr. Menke implies that Mary Campbell's writing about the Port Project would deter commentary from fellow Cape Bretoners who may feel inclined to support the project, and here I have to call bullshit.  Either Mr. Menke is not from Cape Breton or he is out of touch with his audience because Cape Bretoners do not scare easy or back down when aroused either in support or against an issue.

There are actually many questions and concerns about going ahead with the Port Project and there appears to be some questionable behaviour around land exchanges, land purchases, consulting choices, project contractors, conflicts of interest and the very project itself. Critique and questioning of these matters is not personal, however, individuals and government hiding behind non-disclosure agreements and presentation of half truths as a result is very personal. It comes close to treating the citizens as children. Taxpaying citizens as children. This is not a new story or circumstance, but there is better awareness and willingness to address these issues in today's climate. I would also say people are well and surely tired of this kind of business model.

I must take exception at this point on retaining a company's services that has been banned by the World Bank for fraud. The fine distinction that it was only the road and bridge section that was banned, or that bribery is just the way things get done in some places does not give me confidence in the company or for the project planners who are so eager to look past this disturbing fact. Surely there is a partner out there amongst all the world class companies without this blemish on their record? And if not. Why not? These things are important, in house and out. To gloss over this problem is actually quite alarming.

I would question here if the citizens reject the project would it go away? Or, as Mary's ire seems to suggest, will it go ahead anyway?  As Mr. Menke makes clear, he does not like Mary's style but to say that would be enough to justify witholding of information and evidence goes too far.

Learning about ports while working on a high profile port project is a concern and that is not personal it is just business and it seems there is a lot of that going around. The fact is, most of the members of the Port Development team are in fact amatures. I know from Mary's investigations that there are some unsavory aspects with some of the stakeholders in terms of professional standing. To dismiss concerns about this, or downplay the significance is, again, alarming. There is also a lack of transparency, which Mr Menke has rightfully conceded. 

When asking about the millions spent on consulting fees to acquire partnerships for the Port Development - a costly failed attempt, or so it seems. I beg the question as to whether it was simply not seen as a viable investment in a broad and general sense rather than poor consulting. Have all the findings and reports of those consulting efforts been made public?

I would be very interested to know more about what the world-renowned companies are interested in. Is it a contract or investment? And right here I am going to say it is a no risk contract as opposed to a bona fide investment. I am going to say generous tax breaks and incentives have been pffered and need to be made public so we can do the math. The difference between a partnership and a contractor has important distinctions that often gets muddled in the public's version of the project description.

I also understand the Port Project will be highly automated, and so for the public investment, how many jobs? Will it be a union workplace? Where are the benefits to the community when adjustments are made for concessions and incentives?

Halifax , Montreal, New York, all these ports are experiencing contractions and yet Cape Breton is the exception? Why?

There are a lot of questions and concerns and as far as I know, Mary is the only one asking the hard questions. All questions of style aside, let's keep to the substance of the matter.