Too Many Questions, Not Enough Answers

Written by Melissa Vickers

J-O-B-S. It’s a simple 4 letter word that has the people of Cape Breton salivating at the mouth, like a dog with a bone. With good reason, long term high paying jobs are a rare commodity in Cape Breton and when opportunities come along we often jump at the hand willing to feed us before asking the right questions and receiving answers.

“Are these long term sustainable jobs?”, “Are these contract jobs with frequent lay-offs?”, “How will these jobs affect the local businesses and surrounding communities?”, “What are the environmental and health hazards?” and finally… “Are we losing more than we are gaining?”

In regards to the potential sale of Archibald’s Wharf to Canadian Maritime Engineering (CME) only more questions keep arising without answers. It seems the questions and concerns of the residents of North Sydney are falling on deaf ears of the elected council and the mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) Cecil Clarke. With so many unanswered questions residents are now left to do their own research.

In an article published in The Cape Breton Post titled “North Sydney shipyard bids on various projects” by Julie Collins on June 09, 2014 it stated that CME was aggressively bidding on major refit projects and expects to hire upwards of 50 employees by this time next year. Question… how many of those bids did they win? There was not another article posted about CME winning any of the bids.

Quotes from Dean Mitchell (project manger of, CME) from the same article:

“There is stiff competition out there with some of the other shipyards, but we’ll get our pencils sharpened and see if we can make this a booming place again.”

“It is important to iron out the bugs, and we did find a few deficiencies. Now, we have them all rectified and we are ready to go,” he said. “We are bidding on a number of upcoming refits with the Canadian Coast Guard and Department of National Defense, including a couple of  military mine-sweeping ships that are coming up for three-month-long refits.

Was the stiff competition the winner of these bids? Or was CME? How stable are these jobs with such stiff competition? After a 3 month-long refit job are employees than required to open an unemployment claim until CME wins their next bid against their stiff competition? Before losing the only green space left in downtown North Sydney, concerned residents would like to know.

In another article from the Cape Breton Post “North Sydney shipyard shaping up” by Julie Collins on July 10, 2014 Dean Mitchell also stated:

“We have about $6 million invested in the shipyard so far, with more to come,” he said. “We have some real estate people looking at local properties for housing for employees and for storage facilities. We have a few more properties to look at locally.”

Interesting wording in that quote… “…some real estate people looking at local properties for housing for employees” Hold on! Housing for employees? With the promise of creating 50-100 jobs, after reading that line a person can only assume these jobs are not meant for anyone living locally, considering anyone living locally would already have housing. On a public meeting held December 7th, 2014 at the North Sydney Fire Hall it was established that only 2 workers at the current CME facility in North Sydney are local residents (please see video link “Highlights from December 7th public meeting” in references).

In an interview with David Burke from CBC on November 18th 2014, CBRM Mayor, Cecil Clarke says that Indian Beach and Munro Park are replacement green areas. With the construction of the new Marine Atlantic Terminal allowing for easier access to downtown is it wise to encourage the hundreds of thousands passengers and their money, out of the downtown core? How many restaurants, shops, and retailers would suffer? Without a green space in the downtown to encourage the Marine Atlantic passengers to let their children run and play before being confined on a long ferry ride, how many local businesses do we stand to lose besides the ones currently on Archibald’s Wharf? With the loss of these businesses and jobs how many families would we be condemning to move out of the North Sydney area? Off of Cape Breton Island?

In a recent Destination Cape Breton, brochure dinning in North Sydney was described as one Cape Breton’s hidden gems;

“Dinning in North Sydney; whether it is The Black Spoon Bistro or Lobster Pound and Moore, North Sydney is undoubtedly a culinary hub and destination”

It would be a real shame to see these establishments lose business because foot traffic is being diverted across town or even out of town at a recommendation by the CBRM Mayor for use of a green space.

On December 6th, 2014, Cecil Clark posted on his website regarding the sale of Archibald’s Wharf to CME:

“A Canadian company is hoping to make North Sydney its base of operations for ship repair and supply, ship building and ship recycling

If you enter ships recycling into a search engine the results are not promising and it’s often referred to as ship breaking. The following is of some of the hazards of ship recycling as listed on the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Association) website.

Hazardous Exposures

Asbestos—in hanger liners, mastic under insulation, cloth over insulation, cable, lagging and insulation on pipes and hull, adhesive, gaskets on piping connections, and valve packing.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)—in rubber products such as hoses, plastic foam insulation, cables, silver paint, habitability paint, felt under septum plates, plates on top of the hull bottom, and primary paint on hull steel.

Lead—from lead and chromate paint, lead ballast, batteries, generators, and motor components.

Hazardous material and chemicals—including heavy metals in ship transducers, ballast, and paint coatings; mercury in fluorescent light tubes, thermometers, electrical switches, light fittings, fire detectors, and tank-level indicators; and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in self-contained refrigeration devices such as water coolers and small freezer units.

Excess noise—associated with grinding, hammering, metal cutting, and other activities.

Fire—from ignited insulation, matting, lagging, and residual fuel; and from lubricants and other flammable liquid.

With so many hazardous materials and chemicals will ship recycling have a negative impact on our harbour and lobster industry? What does this mean for local lobster fisherman and the Ballast Grounds located besides CME? Will our local fisherman also be trading in their boats for recycling to buy a plane ticket out west? What about the health of the people currently residing in North Sydney? What Environmental precautions will be taken?

Archibald’s Wharf is a green space with a fantastic playground, not only used by the residents and passengers of Marine Atlantic but to the surrounding communities as well. It encourages families to visit downtown North Sydney to support our local shops and restaurants so we can grow as a community. Without Archibald’s Wharf these local businesses will suffer. The gain, 50-100 jobs? Health and Environment Hazards? Possible harm to our lobster fishing industry? With so many unanswered questions concerning the sale of the wharf to CME what is the rush to sell it? Can’t the residents of North Sydney have their questions and concerns addressed before tearing down the one remaining green space downtown?

Yes Cape Breton is in need of jobs, no one will deny that, but what is the price and consequences we’ll pay to get them? As they say “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you“, however in this case that hand may choke you.



The Cape Breton Post titled “North Sydney shipyard bids on various projects”
by Julie Collins on June 09, 2014

The Cape Breton Post “North Sydney shipyard shaping up” by Julie Collins on July 10, 2014

Highlights from December 7th, 2014

Interview with David Burke of CBC and CBRM Mayor, Cecil Clarke

Cecil Clark’s website

Occupational Safety and Health Association

Public Consultation on the “Sale of Archibald’s Wharf”
Saturday at 1:00pm – 4:00pm
309 Commercial Street North Sydney


Save Archibald’s Wharf! Sign this Petition!

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