New Federal Minister To Visit CBRM
SYDNEY - Federal Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan, Nova Scotia's representative in the federal cabinet, will tour the infamous tar ponds Monday.
During a day-long trip to Cape Breton, the federal minister will also meet business and municipal leaders and Canadian Coast Guard officials.
John Nash, president of the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce, hopes to ensure, during a meeting with the federal minister Monday morning, that the cleanup of the tar ponds and coke ovens sites - which are frequently described as Canada's worst toxic site - is a priority for the new federal cabinet of Prime Minister Paul Martin.
"We want it to be top of mind for the federal government," Nash said Friday.
"With a new speech from the throne coming down and a new budget coming down, it's important that this issue - the cleanup of the coke ovens site and the tar ponds site - that it proceed in an orderly fashion."
Nash and Cliff Murphy, of the Cape Breton Island Building and Construction Trades Council, issued an appeal in late December for a meeting with Regan, hoping to get a clear commitment from the new federal cabinet to the cleanup of the tar ponds and coke ovens sites.
Mayor John Morgan also hopes to discuss the tar ponds cleanup and other issues for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality when he meets Regan at noon.
"I am very pleased he is doing this," said the mayor. "He has done it at his initiative, which is unusual. It's an unusual step for a federal minister to come proactively to a municipal unit and say: 'What are your concerns?' "
The mayor recalled former prime minister Jean Chretien's remarks in November 2000 that it is time to stop talking and start digging at the tar ponds.
"The commitment of the new government hasn't been clarified yet so we are hoping to get some clarity on that point. Mr. Regan is very close to the new prime minister, as I understand it, so we are hopeful we can get some commitment on that similar, at least, to the commitment that was there in place with the last prime minister."
The mayor also hoped to brief Regan on the CBRM's fight for more of the $318 million that Nova Scotia receives annually in equalization payments from Ottawa. The CBRM has said it is being shortchanged by about $20 million a year on its fair share. It has retained a Toronto law firm to research a possible lawsuit against the province over the issue.