Premier Stephen McNeil addresses Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce

Premier Stephen McNeil had good news and bad news for Cape Breton when he spoke Tuesday at a Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast, talking about everything from health care to port development to immigration.

Premier says no provincial money on the way for Sydney container terminal proposal

It was a full house for the premier's address to the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce. (Joan Weeks/CBC)

Premier Stephen McNeil had good news and bad news for Cape Breton when he spoke Tuesday at a Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

He talked about everything from health care to port development to immigration. 

McNeil told the business community there would be no money from the province to build a container terminal in Sydney because developing the port is not the province's responsibility.

"It's all private development," he said. "They'll make the determinants on which project will go forward, which are there —  roads, that kind of investment that we would require." 

McNeil says the province is working to ensure road and rail infrastructure is available.

Infrastructure only

He said the Port of Sydney, the Melford Terminal project in Guysborough County and the Port of Halifax have all talked to the government about container terminal opportunities.

"We made it clear that, you know, we encourage them to continue to look at Nova Scotia to invest, and that our role in this will just be on the public infrastructure side."

He said the government is willing to invest in a second berth for the Port of Sydney if the municipal and federal governments also contribute "because that is really bringing tourists into the community." 

A level of frustration

The premier also spoke about health care at the breakfast. His government has been under fire for doctor shortages in Cape Breton.

"Even under the old system [of multiple regional health authorities], people felt a level of frustration," he told the audience.

He also said he's especially proud of the collaborative practice model for family medicine, which the Department of Health has identified as the way of the future.

Help for immigrants

On another matter, an attendee asked McNeil if the province will provide more support services in Cape Breton for potential immigrants.

"We're not going to replicate every department in every part of the province. That would be unrealistic and I've yet to meet any Nova Scotian who tells me to grow the government," responded the premier.

"Where we've had success is our sister organizations outside the government that have been carrying the ball and doing the work."

'You need expertise in certain areas'

Owen Fitzgerald is with one of those organizations, Sydney's St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Parish, which is sponsoring a Syrian family that arrived last week. 

"A community can do an awful lot," he said. "We have an army of volunteers, but you need professional people too and you need expertise in certain areas.

"We have to build that support mechanism too. It's much greater in Halifax. We don't have a whole lot here in Cape Breton."

McNeil pointed out the government does have staff across the province helping immigrants.

The Nova Scotia Office of Immigration announced Tuesday it will provide funding for a new, full-time immigrant settlement worker based in Port Hawkesbury.