Activist joins call to reject full-panel tar ponds review |
By JOCELYN BETHUNE
SYDNEY - A well-known priest and community business leader is urging the federal
environment minister not to choose a full-panel review to assess the tar ponds
Rev. Greg MacLeod has written an open letter to Stephane Dion, asking the
minister to chose a comprehensive study to assess the cleanup.
Father MacLeod, a retired Cape Breton University professor, and founder of New
Dawn enterprises, a non-profit community development agency, says that a
plebiscite would show that the community backs this approach.
"I am confident that such a vote would endorse a comprehensive study approach by
a lopsided margin," Father MacLeod writes in his open letter.
He says a number of local community groups, as well as the Cape Breton district
health authority and Cape Breton Regional council, are in favour of a
comprehensive study as the most appropriate and efficient way of assessing the
A debate over the type of environmental assessment needed for the cleanup has
raged since late 2004.
Federal officials are collecting opinions before recommending to the Environment
Department whether to continue a comprehensive study, which has already begun,
or switch to a full-panel review, led by an independent expert.
John Malcom, CEO of the Cape Breton district health authority, said recently his
board and staff feel a comprehensive study could provide all the benefits of a
full-panel review without its risks, like taking too long.
"We have discussed the problem for 23 years," said Father MacLeod, who spent
four years as a member of the defunct Joint Action Group, a committee struck to
explore cleanup options.
"The community is tired. We believe your government has received a false
impression from a small number of vocal individuals who favour a full-panel
"It is apparent to anyone who lives here that a broad community consensus
favours the more expeditious comprehensive study," Father MacLeod said.
The stigma arising from the tar ponds has had a "devastating impact" on the
city's well-being, said Father MacLeod.
"It has made economic development and professional recruitment almost
impossible," he said.
Last month Cape Breton Regional council said a full-panel review, which could
take 12-18 months and would be managed by a group of experts and scientists
appointed by Mr. Dion, would simply duplicate the efforts of the Joint Action