No tar ponds politics, please
Eric Wynne / Herald Photo
Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm speaks with former
Ontario health minister Tony Clement and MLA
Brooke Taylor before a government caucus meeting
Wednesday morning. Mr. Clement is running for the
leadership of the new Conservative Party of
Hamm insists there is a deal with Ottawa for 70-30 split
By Amy Smith and The Canadian Press
Cape Breton Nova MLA Gordie Gosse says politics shouldn't get in the way of
cleaning up the Sydney tar ponds.
"We don't want it to be a political football," the New Democrat said Wednesday.
"Let's just get 'er done."
He said the responsibility for funding the cleanup lies with both the federal
and provincial governments, but Ottawa should pay for the majority of the cost.
This week, Environment Minister David Anderson said Ottawa is responsible for
just 40 per cent of the site, but will pick up half the cost of the roughly
$400-million project. He warned there could be less federal money for other
Nova Scotia projects if Ottawa gives too much to the tar ponds.
Premier John Hamm argues there is a deal for a 70-30 split, with the federal
government picking up the larger amount.
"We have set aside money for 30 per cent," he told reporters Tuesday.
According to the 1999 Canada-Nova Scotia-Cape Breton Regional Municipality
cost-share agreement, "level 3, phase 1 remediation will be funded 70 per cent
by Canada and 30 per cent by Nova Scotia."
Parker Donham, spokesman for the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, said a 50-50
cost-sharing agreement is not an option.
"We're focused on a 70-30 split," he said Wednesday.
"It's roughly how the contaminants are distributed between the federal and
Ottawa owns the tar ponds, an open waterway leading directly to the Atlantic
Ocean. It also owns portions of the former coke ovens site, which cooked coal
to make coke that fired the provincially owned steel plant for decades.
Tony Clement, federal Conservative leadership candidate, says he's not surprised
Ottawa is trying to shift more responsibility for the Sydney tar ponds cleanup
to the province.
He said the federal government is "trying to have its cake and eat it too."
"I've seen how the federal government deals with all provinces," said Mr.
Clement, former Ontario health minister.
"The federal government manipulates the agenda and tries to make grand
announcements and yet doesn't back it up with the appropriate financial
infrastructure to actually make it work."
Mr. Clement, in town to seek support and attend this weekend's Tory annual
general meeting, also promised to lobby for a better offshore royalty deal for
Nova Scotia if he becomes party leader.
He said a Conservative government under his leadership would end the federal
clawback of equalization payments for every dollar Nova Scotia earns from oil
"I think it's very important for Atlantic Canada to have more control over its
natural resources and also more of the revenue stream from the get-go, rather
than having a system of dependency on the federal government through
equalization payments," he said before paying a visit to the weekly provincial
Tory caucus meeting in Halifax.
Meanwhile, a resolution calling on leery Nova Scotia Tories to back the new
Conservative Party of Canada is expected this weekend from the provincial
party's new executive.
The wording of the resolution hasn't been finalized, but the intent is to urge
party members to explicitly support the new federal entity, said Grant
Galbraith, the outgoing provincial president.
Political scientists in the province say the resolution shows party brass are
concerned about the deep reservations the rank and file have towards the new
Leonard Preyra, a professor at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, said in an
interview it's one more sign the party is struggling for unity in Atlantic
"It's extraordinary that the party has been reduced to this state," Preyra
said. "There is a great deal of disillusionment and depression within the
conservative movement, especially here in Atlantic Canada, where most party
members are looking (at the merger) as a wake, rather than a rebirth."