CBRM mayor off to China
Cecil Clarke on 10-day port development expedition
Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke is on a 10-day port development-related expedition to China.
The Cape Breton Post has confirmed that he left Thursday and is slated to return Dec. 6. Albert Barbusci — the Montreal-based chief executive officer of Harbor Port Development Corp., the consultants granted the exclusive right to market the port of Sydney for development — is accompanying Clarke.
In the days leading up to Clarke leaving for his trip, the Cape Breton Post attempted unsuccessfully to schedule an interview with him.
“You should contact him for his travel, and yes, I’m going,” Barbusci said Thursday morning in a brief conversation when reached on his cellphone.
Barbusci said he couldn’t get into any more detail about the trip at this time, noting there is a non-disclosure agreement in place.
“There’s nothing we can disclose at this time,” he said.
After being unable to arrange an interview with Clarke, the Post sent a number of questions by email to Christina Lamey, communications adviser with the mayor’s office. They included asking who is paying for Clarke’s trip, whether anyone other than Barbusci is taking part in the voyage and whether council was ever briefed on the outcome of Clarke’s last trip to China. The Post also asked where in China Clarke will be travelling.
Lamey responded by email confirming that Clarke was en route to China on Thursday and that he was travelling on his own. She wrote that he will be involved in a series of three meetings, including one in Chongqing organized through the Centre for International Co-operation. Chongqing is located in southwest China, and has a population of almost 29 million, while its urban area has a population of about seven million.
Two other meetings will involve Harbor Port Development Partners, Lamey wrote.
“The mayor will have more to say about those meetings later, either during the trip or immediately upon his return,” Lamey stated.
The costs of the mayor’s last trip to China were covered by the Centre for International Co-operation and it was not a CBRM expense, Lamey noted. A port-related meeting that had been planned as part of that trip had to be cancelled due to uncertainties with aboriginal consultations on the harbour and related lands, which have since been resolved.
“Council and the public in general were all well aware of these issues as they were widely publicized at the time,” Lamey wrote.
Costs for this trip are covered by Centre for International Co-operation, the Port of Sydney and Harbor Port Development Partners as it involves meetings related to each organization, Lamey said. She said that since he assumed the mayoralty, Clarke has posted his office’s travel expenses online every fiscal quarter.
Deputy mayor George MacDonald said he was advised that he would have to fill in for the mayor while he’s away in China.
“He left for China (Thursday) morning, I can tell you that,” MacDonald said. “I don’t know the details of the trip — as you know it’s always a puzzle, but we’re hoping that maybe we’re going to close the last piece of the puzzle … they’re meeting with some representatives in China in regard to some shipping lines, I guess.
“It’s a very important trip. ... We’re hoping to get some real positive results from the trip.”
Dist. 6 Coun. Ray Paruch said councillors were advised in an email of the dates of Clarke’s excursion to China and that it was port-related, but received few other details.
“It’s all tight-lipped and I want to know why he’s going to China because we haven’t got an update on the port from the last trip to China,” Paruch said.
“It’s never come to council and there’s never been a disclosure about what was it that they went looking for, what did they find or what did they not find and how much did it cost and who went.”