A two-day Port Summit in Sydney is tackling questions on port development in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, including who will run the port and who will get any money that's generated from it.
Marine consultants, industry experts and representatives from the provincial and federal governments are attending the summit at the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion to develop a strategic plan for the port.
The attendees heard about ports across the country that are governed in different ways, including ports that are run solely by a municipality or government body and others that are controlled by businesses or public-private partnerships.
Lisa Raitt, the federal Minister of of Labour and a former employee of the Toronto Harbour Commission, spoke at the summit and had advice for the community as it decides how to manage the port.
"Find your path and then build your governance model around it," she told the attendees.
"The partners who own the pieces of property in the port have to decide how they want to interact and what they want to do. It's not a cookie cutter situation."
Toronto owns its container terminal and Raitt called it a money loser.
Karen Oldfield, the president and CEO of the Halifax Port Authority, said government controlled ports can work.
"We make our money by leasing property and we also generate revenues by tariffs and levies," she said.
"We are not in the business of making money for the sake of making money. We are in the business of generating revenue so we can reinvest in our infrastructure."
Oldfield said her board of directors includes one member from each level of government, plus four port stakeholders and the Halifax Port Authority's goal is to create jobs and prosperity for the city, the province and the country.
Tim Gilfoy, the CEO of the Strait of Canso Superport Corporation, said his corporation supports private ownership of container terminals.
"It just affords the private sector group a greater of flexibility with respect to cost and operational practices that would be uninhibited by an authority," said Gilfoy.
Speakers at the summit said most successful harbour boards are a mix of community, government and business representatives. The most important thing, they said, is that whoever governs the harbour must make its operations and finances transparent to the public.
The summit concludes Friday with a public hearing at the Cape Breton Regional Municipality council chambers.
The hearing will allow members of the public to share their thoughts on port governance and development and will also be an opportunity for them to ask questions they may have about the future of the port.
The Cape Breton Regional Municipality will then produce a position paper from the summit.