Politicians weigh in on downtown campus issue
‘I think that that’s something that we have to pursue’
Geoff MacLellan has reiterated his support for a proposal to opening a waterfront campus Nova Scotia Community College in Sydney but there are no concrete funding commitments at this point to making it happen.
MacLellan again raised the concept when addressing Cape Breton Regional council Tuesday. Mayor Cecil Clarke had extended an invitation to the three parties currently represented in the legislature and running candidates in the CBRM in the current provincial election campaign to appear before council. MacLellan, who is running for reelection as the MLA for Glace Bay and served as Transportation Minister, appeared on behalf of the Liberals while Sydney River-MiraLouisbourg candidate Alfie MacLeod represented the Progressive Conservatives.
While the NDP acknowledged receiving the invitation, Clarke said, they did not have a representative address council.
MacLellan and MacLeod shared their parties’ priorities for the region.
“This isn’t an announcement or a ribbon-cutting or anything of that nature but … I really do believe one of these pieces that we’re going to pursue if given the opportunity is a waterfront campus for the NSCC,” MacLellan told council. “I’ve always believed in that, everyone that I’ve spoken to about this sees the merit, the construction would be tremendous but the traffic and what the impact is would be significant.
“I think that that’s something that we have to pursue and we will do that and I think that’s a good thing for us.”
Two years ago, Clarke approached the province about a downtown Sydney development that would house the NSCC Marconi Campus, the provincial building, a new library, and some other uses.
The NSCC’s Marconi campus is currently located on the Sydney-Glace Bay Highway next to Cape Breton University. When it was initially proposed, there hadn’t yet been any official talks with NSCC or library officials regarding the proposal. The NSCC leases the Marconi campus building from the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.
“To hear that brought up, it could be a huge economic driver,” Clarke said.
There has also been some talk of a new Sydney library being part of the potential development. As far as the library itself, Clarke said the municipality currently has limited dollars available and the other two levels of government have to be at the table.
“I was pleasantly surprised about that coming up and when I think when people look at those types of projects that are very large capital projects, when we try to talk about what our solutions are about a new library for the central branch that these types of investments could help make these other projects a reality.”
Clarke said he’s had continued talks with the province about the proposal and it was something the McNeil government was willing to entertain, but there were other priorities and the CBRM had to come forward with a proposal, acknowledging it would be an expensive project.
“I’m just glad that it’s getting some more discussion during the campaign,” he said.
For his part, MacLeod noted the PCs plan to twin dangerous roads and address the poor condition of rural roads, improve access to high-speed Internet, and supported the CBRM’s efforts to obtain a municipal charter with expanded abilities. He added more than 10,000 Cape Bretoners are without family doctors and there were three local emergency department closures last weekend. MacLeod also noted the current wait for a mental health consultation stands at 354 days while it’s 319 days for a cataract consultation in Glace Bay and another 230 days before a procedure can be scheduled.
“We know all of these challenges have a trickle-down effect on this municipality and on our people,” MacLeod said.
Clarke also welcomed MacLeod speaking about the need for economic development and targeted money for the CBRM.
MacLellan also spoke about the future of Cape Breton’s railway, saying owner Genesee & Wyoming have renewed interest in it, although it continues to not operate. He said the support for the future of the rail line transcended party lines.
Nova Scotians go to the polls May 30.
A mixed-use facility including both a waterfront Nova Scotia Community campus and new Sydney library are among the proposed developments that have been discussed for the CBRM.
Glace Bay MLA Geoff MacLellan and Progressive Conservative candidate for Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg Alfie MacLeod listens to a proposal being made for a waterfront campus Nova Scotia Community College in Sydney at a CBRM council meeting Tuesday night.