Government agency will replace JAG

By Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Wed., Sept. 17, 2003

A new government agency will seize the reins from the Joint Action Group, as the community-driven process - here since 1996 - prepares to shut its doors for good, Thursday.

Within 30 days the new agency, yet to be named, will have a storefront in Sydney, said Garth Bangay, regional director general for Environment Canada.

The storefront will house the government employees described in a terms of reference issued Tuesday as "bearing complete responsibility for all aspects of the project, including public relations and communications."

It will also oversee a new community liaison committee - a group of 15 individuals nominated from organizations in this area.

The committee will ensure a two-way flow of information between the agency and its member organizations, as stated in the government document. It also states the agency is mandated to provide committee members with timely and accurate information regarding project plans and activities and, in return, the committee will serve as a "sounding board" for the agency.

The committee will not be a decision-making forum and is limited to - asking questions and offering advice to the agency, keeping member organizations informed, providing the agency with information and concerns from the community, offering suggestions to the agency, providing feedback when requested, and having access to technical experts when approved by the agency.

Once the agency is in place, it will call for expressions of interest from interested organizations. A chairperson will be appointed by government for a two year tenure. The meetings, expected to be monthly at first, will be closed to the public, but the committee may participate in public meetings when requested by the agency.

Dan Fraser, chairperson of the Joint Action Group, said it's unfortunate that government representatives are no longer in a partnership with this community. "-It's quite a departure," he said.

JAG is having its last roundtable as a government-funded group today but can continue as an independent organization.

But before they go, members would like to hear a response from government concerning JAG's recommendation on how to clean up the toxic tar ponds and coke ovens. It has recommended that contaminated waste at the site be removed and destroyed with co-burning the favoured method. "We still haven't heard anything," said Fraser.