CBRM, Mi’kmaq reach agreement on terminal development
‘ We don’t want to stop development’
Reaching an interim agreement on economic benefits associated with the proposed Sydney Marine Terminal expansion with the Mi’kmaq will allow the port to focus on obtaining funding from the other levels of government to proceed with the project, Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke says.
It was announced Tuesday that the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs recently signed an interim agreement with the CBRM on the proposed expansion, under the terms of reference for a Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada consultation process.
The CBRM has committed $ 6.7 million to the expansion and has submitted funding proposals to the province and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
“Part of the requirement of the federal government is that it has the aboriginal consultation, this is critical to that,” Clarke said.
Under the deal, the CBRM will only provide and accept bids that include a stipulation that at least five per cent of the project development costs are to be attributed to the Mi’kmaq.
Moving forward, it will also embed the five per cent arrangement in any other major agreement related to similar or public works developments, allowing projects to move forward more quickly.
“It shows that (the CBRM) came forward to work with us in good faith and as a result we have an agreement that everybody is happy with,” Membertou Chief Terry Paul said.
“We understand the importance of the expansion and recognize that it will contribute significantly to the tourism industry, and we rely on the tourism traffic. I expect that we attract it, too.”
Membertou and Eskasoni First Nations, are leading the Sydney harbour consultations on behalf of 12 Mi’kmaq communities.
“We don’t want to stop development, we want development,” Paul said.
The agreement will create the foundation for future long- term deals with companies and the municipality, he added.
Clarke said the agreement will provide opportunities for building tourism capacity around the Membertou Heritage Park and the Goat Island experience offered by Eskasoni.
“These are opening doors because what we want to do is double our traffic,” Clarke said.
Without additional capacity to handle ships, the port is missing out, he added, noting Royal Caribbean dropped Sydney because it couldn’t be guaranteed a berth.
The environmental side of the project has also been addressed, which leaves the funding as the final piece to the puzzle.
Clarke said the CBRM will approach Sydney-Whitney Pier MLA- elect Derek Mombourquette to advocate for the project.
Paul noted the Mi’kmaq have constitutionally protected rights and a stake in any project that happens on land and water.
The proposed Sydney Marine Terminal expansion will involve the construction of a second cruise ship berth in Sydney harbour that is capable of docking vessels larger than 300 metres.
The project is expected to take about 18 months to construct.
If funding was to be confirmed in the fall, work could begin next year, Clarke said. The potential economic benefits would extend beyond Cape Breton County into neighbouring areas such as Victoria and Richmond counties, he added.
The Maasdam, the cruise ship that most often calls at the port of Sydney, was in port Tuesday as word came that the CBRM and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs have signed an interim agreement on the plans to expand the Sydney Marine Terminal, with the addition of a second berth to host ships.