SYDNEY – Rankin MacSween fired the opening shots in the race for mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality as he took the Cecil Clarke administration to task over the Sydney harbour development issue.
And the longtime head of the Sydney-based community building agency New Dawn Enterprises, brought along some top longshoremen union officials who endorsed the 65-year-old’s approach to port development.
“For the past four years we’ve had an administration that has gone at this project, gone at this development of the harbour in a way that is careless and in a way, that at times, seems desperate,” said MacSween, who held a news conference Wednesday at a Sydney hotel.
About two-dozen MacSween supporters joined members of the local media in a small conference room overlooking the harbour, where they heard senior officials with the International Longshoremen’s Association praise their man’s economic plans for the port he refers to as a “natural asset” and “a gift from the universe.”
Michael Vigneron, president of the 65,000-member union’s Atlantic Coast District, acknowledged MacSween’s position on promoting commercial and commended him for putting a focus on job creation.
“Going back to 2008, Mr. MacSween was fully aboard with taking care of the community, he was for a port that was going to create jobs for the people who live here — he wasn’t interested in the corporate interests as much as he was the people of Cape Breton and that’s why we’re here,” said Vigneron, whose union claims to be involved with 99 per cent of all shipping container traffic on the east coast of North America.
Added ILA assistant general organizer James Paylor: “The decision to support Rankin was a no-brainer — it was one of consistency, commitment and dedication and, more importantly, integrity.”
For his part, MacSween was especially critical of the Clarke administration’s decision in June 2015 to give Harbour Port Development Partners, incorporated by Barry Sheehy and Albert Barbusci, the exclusive rights to market Sydney harbour’s port development for a two-year period.
“The two principals in that company have no experience in port development — if I am elected mayor that contract will not be renewed when it expires next June,” said MacSween. “Then it will be an open process — there will be a competitive process and developers will be invited to submit their ideas on how to develop this asset on behalf of this community and it will be competitive and it will be transparent.”
This is MacSween’s second time running for mayor. In the 2012 municipal election, he finished second to Clarke as he garnered 38 per cent (17,847) of the vote compared with the winner’s 59 per cent (27,732) share. While there were three other candidates four years ago, this year’s mayoral election features just Clarke and MacSween.