Sue governments if cleanup stalls
Letter to the editor from Robert Barrie
Cape Breton Post
Monday, Jan. 12, 2004
Isn't it time the residents of the
Cape Breton Regional Municipality
stood up together, as one unified
group, and hired legal assistance to
force the hand of government on
the tar ponds cleanup?
The headline in the Jan. 6 edition
of the Cape Breton Post
(No Promises to Clean Up Tar Ponds) angers me
greatly. As a news reporter with
CJCB at the time, I was there in 1996
when Ottawa announced that help
was on its way that a solution was
going to be found, and that the community
would have great involvement in the cleanup process.
I remember very well the then
environment minister, Sergio
Marchi, taking all of us down to the
tar ponds on that warm August
morning, the stench of the ponds
firmly planted in everyone's nostrils
(and, indeed, everyone's mind).
I thought at the time that, surely
with the federal minister of environment
physically standing right
in the middle of the problem,
Ottawa was going to be serious in
making a true financial and psychological
commitment to cleaning up
this mess. I was there also when
Marchi lead us to the Delta Hotel to
announce the formation of the Joint
Action Group (JAG) on the cleanup
of the Sydney tar ponds, which was
supposed to give us all a feeling of
belonging to a future solution.
Well, that time has come and
gone -- almost eight years, to be
exact -- and we still have no
cleanup, let alone any great ideas to
actually make this toxic dump safe.
How about this idea, then? If
Ottawa is still sitting on the fence
(as it appears to be doing, according
to the comments of Fisheries and
Oceans Minister Geoff Regan), then
Mayor John Morgan and the members
of the Cape Breton regional
council should sue both senior levels
of government for their inaction
on the tar ponds.
Why not put together a lawsuit in
co-operation with the residents of
the whole municipality which
would force Ottawa and Halifax
either to clean up the mess or to
provide the money to do the job
CBRM residents who consider
this a "Sydney problem" shouldn't
fool themselves. Remember the days
of the yellow-orange smoke billowing
from Sydney Steel's stacks.
Where do you think this stuff
landed, on the moon?
No, some of it ended up in Pottle
Lake, the water supply for much of
Due to our continually prevailing
northeast and northwest winds, I
dare say a lot more ended up in the
water supplies of Glace Bay Dominion,
New Waterford and other surrounding communities.
All of us have a stake in this.
Our political and business leaders
must know and understand that
part of the reason we've been
unable to attract outside companies
is the tar ponds. That is undeniable.
Until we clean up the mess, there
will be no great economic renewal,
regardless of how many elected officials
tell you otherwise. It would
have happened by now if they were
We've got a great workforce, relatively
cheap labour and even cheaper
land and taxation in relation to
larger cities, and we still can't get
the economic ball rolling. Gee, do
you think it could be because we
live in the middle of "Canada's
worst toxic waste site"? Of course it
I'll have to duck for cover now
because the bleeding hearts and
timid business leaders will accuse
me of trying to put a black mark on
the area, of scaring away potential
investors. Open your eyes. there are
very few opportunities because of
the tar ponds.
Clean up the tar ponds now and
then just sit back and watch how
fast economic renewal begins in
this great island.
Moffatt Ave., Sydney Mines