Thursday, August 14, 2003 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau
Paul Martin spoke to about 400 Liberal supporters at Two Rivers Wildlife Park on Wednesday.

Martin mum on coal profits
C.B. 'really turning around,' says PM hopeful

By Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau

Marion Bridge - One of the people behind a decision to close Cape Breton mines in 2000 refused to say Wednesday how much money he's personally made from importing Nova Scotia's replacement coal supply.

"I'm not in a position to talk about any of this," federal Liberal leadership hopeful Paul Martin said after mingling with about 400 Liberal supporters and their families at a picnic at Two Rivers Wildlife Park.

Mr. Martin was federal finance minister from 1993 to 2002.

"These were very tough decisions and what's important is that in fact there's funding for transition, funding to help communities be there, and what I think you see is that Cape Breton is really turning around, there's great optimism, great enthusiam," he told reporters.

"I can assure you, if I become prime minister the Canadian government is going to be there (for) all Cape Bretoners."

Mr. Martin's shipping firm Canadian Steamship Lines continues to import about three million tonnes of coal, fuel that was once supplied by the Cape Breton Development Corporation, better known as Devco.

CSL lands about two million tonnes at the former Devco pier, now owned by Emera, parent company of Nova Scotia Power. The remainder of the coal lands at Mulgrave.

Sydney residents have complained about the dust and noise produced by ships offloading coal. A stevedoring company was fined $1,500 this year after failing to control coal dust which coated dozens of homes along several streets in Whitney Pier.

The coal is trucked from the pier in 18-wheelers, some owned by former Devco boss Joe Shannon, to be burned at NSP generators across the province.

Mr. Martin was finance minister when cabinet decided to cut Devco's funding, which in turn tossed more than 1,700 miners out of work. Ottawa, along with the province, provided a $100-million transition fund to offset the blow to the economy.

Earlier this summer, the federal government turned the Sydney coalfield lease back to the province. Tenders to operate surface mines in Cape Breton are expected to be released in weeks.

But Mr. Martin took on other topics, including same-sex marriages and equalization funding to provinces, which he said has "room for improvement."

The front-runner to replace Prime Minister Jean Chretien said he will abide by court rulings on same-sex marriages.

"This is a very divisive debate in the country," he said. "The courts have essentially said this is a right and governments can't discriminate and I believe governments can't discriminate.

"The debate that's going to be held in caucus, as well as debate that's going to be held in the House of Commons is going to be very, very important in finding how we essentially come up with a way to ensure Canadians there will be no discrimination while yet at the time deal with the fundamental values that Canadians have."

The federal Liberal caucus will be meeting in September in Ontario before the Commons resumes sitting.

Mr. Martin said he doesn't think Canada's position on same-sex marriage will affect relations with the United States.