Who Owns Sydney’s Port?

The Cape Breton Post’s assessment of yesterday’s events (“Greenfield Gold”) doesn’t say much for its opinion of this community. CBRM council voted 17-0 to put in an offer on the Greenfield site. The Post believes this unanimous decision was the result of council’s impressionability, as if they were simply charmed by Rankin MacSween.

When in fact, as reported by CBC, councillors based their decision on the volume of phone calls and emails they received from constituents following Tuesday’s council meeting. Council’s decision was the direct result of a community acting together to achieve a common goal. This was neither a coup by council nor by MacSween; it was a win for the community, by the community.

And what exactly was it that the community won? Again, the Post misses the point. This was not the triumph of a container terminal over a coal field, or the triumph of councillors over a consortium. The decision to purchase the greenfield site shouldn’t be seen as an investment in whatever future development takes place there, container terminal or otherwise. Rather, it should be understood as a securing of this community’s right to determine its own future. It’s not about what gets built on the site; it’s about who decides. And ultimately about who benefits.

The Post would prefer we “let the chips fall where they may”, as if the rights of every Henry Melville Whitney should always and everywhere trump the long-term interests of a community. Indeed the editorial seemed quite concerned with the message yesterday’s decision sends to the private sector. But what message does this send to members of this community, who spoke out in favour of shared ownership of a vital community asset, and had their elected representatives listen? This was truly a triumph for democracy.

It’s too bad the Post editorial missed all this, with its simplistic reduction of a complex issue, and its shameful dismissal not only of this community’s leaders but of the multitude who supported them.

What we witnessed was a community realizing its power, and demanding its right, to determine its future. It was an act of courage. It came from a place of hope. And it displayed a profound commitment to each other and to this island. May this letter serve as a corrective: We noticed. And we celebrated.