Launch of cleanup will be economic boost for Cape Breton

A pending federal election evidently played some part
in the timing of cleanup agreement

By Fred Jackson
Cape Breton Post: Letter From The Editor
Sat., May 8, 2004

  • $1.5 million per week for six years
  • 2,700 person-years
  • Some 400 jobs
  • More flights in and out of Sydney Airport
  • More revenue for Cape Breton businesses
  • Cleanup of the notorious Sydney tar ponds
  • Cape Breton becoming a leader on the world tourism map
  • Allowing Cape Breton to grow economically

This is the realty of the $400 million deal to clean up the highly toxic Sydney tar ponds and the coke ovens site. The big announcement is expected Monday when Cape Breton MPs Mark Eyking and Rodger. Cuzner will take centre stage with two federal ministers representing Ottawa.

Prime Minister Paul Martin is widely expected to call Canadians to the polls sometime in the next two weeks. A federal source admits election timing does have something to do with the decision to fast-track the cleanup agreement.

Ottawa sources said Friday that if the announcement is delayed a day or two, Martin could attend. At this point it appears Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan, Nova Scotia's representative in cabinet, and Public Works minister Stephen Owen will make the announcement, along with Eyking and Cuzner, for the federal side.

Some insiders say Martin should be front and centre because this project will have an impact on other environmental cleanup sites across Canada. "It will show that he is committed to the environment, especially in terms of one of the worst sites in Canada," one source told me. "It will also give him a boost politically, with a major positive news announcement."

Sources say the prime minister is impressed with the role Cape Breton-Victoria MP Eyking played in putting the cleanup on the radar screen, making the project a priority since he was elected.

The federal-provincial agreement was approved in principle Thursday by Premier John Hamm's cabinet and the federal cabinet. The deal will see the federal government contribute up to $280 million. The province will put $120 million towards the project, which is expected to be completed in five distinct phases.

The agreement was reached after intense negotiations this week involving provincial bureaucrats and a senior official from the federal public works department.

This project, along with the Cape Breton Growth Fund will allow Cape Breton to grow. The ball is now on our turf so let's run with it.

The business community, all levels of government and their agencies must form a strong team. We have the money and the project, and now the players must step up and deliver.

Note: This is an excerpt from a letter by Fred Jackson, Managing Editor of the Cape Breton Post