Cape Bretoners are reacting to a surprise political resignation after Cape Breton Regional Municipality’s economic development manager quit without explanation.

John Whalley has been a key player in projects pertaining to the municipality’s economic future for more than 10 years.

“We had no idea John was intending to resign,” said CBRM deputy mayor George MacDonald.

“I don’t know if it’s coincidence, but it’s just bad. Bad timing.”

Whalley’s resignation comes just days before what’s being billed as a big economic announcement, touted by Mayor Cecil Clarke as being crucial to port development at Sydney Harbour.

Councillor Eldon MacDonald says the port development file was Whalley’s “baby.”

“Something doesn’t make sense,” MacDonald said. “You have a big announcement coming on Wednesday, and we’ll wait and see what that will be. But to have your main economic development person resign creates big problems for me.”

Port development is seen to be a potential economic savior for Sydney and the surrounding areas. Whalley’s sudden departure could be a significant blow to those efforts.

“He brings a lot of knowledge and experience, and that knowledge and experience has just walked out the door,” said Eldon MacDonald.

“We’ve been really optimistic this week with this announcement coming, so everybody’s in kind of a positive frame of mind. And now this question mark comes up,” said George MacDonald.

Attempts to reach Whalley on Saturday were unsuccessful.

CBRM’s chief administrative officer could only say that Whalley resigned because of a personal matter. Mayor Cecil Clarke declined to comment for the same reason.

Councillors say they hope the reason for Whalley’s resignation will be revealed during an in-camera council meeting on Tuesday.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ryan MacDonald