Tar ponds fixation turns wrong face of community to the world

Letter to the editor from Bruce McDonald
Cape Breton Post
Friday, Feb. 6, 2004

One must give full marks to MPs Mark Eyking and Rodger Cuzner for getting Geoff Regan, federal minister for Nova Scotia, to visit this area so soon after beginning his tenure in cabinet. However, it should have been a time for all concerned at the local level to present and publicize well researched, progressive programs for the development of our corilmunities.

We need a federal-provincial-municipal community organization to focus resources toward job-creating developments. The three levels of governnient and the Chamber of Commerce all operate independently, only sometimes in co-operation. A combined body could focus on the organized development of the former steel company property, Sydport, Northside Industrial Park, Greater Sydney Harbour, and other areas of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Such a co-operative focus should include all the educational facilities that could contribute.

We do have some success stories like Precision Finished Components, East Coast Rope, Provincial Energy Ventures, EDS and other call centres, and Dynagen. But what was featured in the Regan story (complete with pictures) as a priority? The tar ponds!

What a complete waste of time and effort for him and the others involved in his visit. Even worse was the negative message conveyed to the rest of Canada that we are living in the past and have no positive suggestions for our future.

The story gave a few lines to new matters discussed, if you read to the end (No Promises to Clean Up Tar Ponds, Jan. 6). Why weren't things such as the following a strong part of the local presentation?

Reinforce the success of the cruise ship business by planning to expand the former government dock though acquiring and incorporating properties on either side so that the dock will run from Dorchester Street to north of the Sydney Engineering property. This would allow two if not three cruise ships to tie up at a world-class cruise centre. The cruise ships should be with us for the long term on an expanding basis.

This approach could also provide a dock with extensive shed space and lay-down area for commercial development of the harbour. If this was Halifax, that would be done by the province through its wholly owned Crown corporation, the Waterfront Development Corp., which has been behind most of the Halifax Harbour developments.

Shouldn't we be trying to make this part of Premier John Hamm's "fairness" campaign? Enhance the Sydney northend historic area as a cruise ship feature by increasing the number of heritage properties to visit and expanding the museums, both physically and with staff perhaps even rebuilding the waterfront home of Sir John George Bourinot, the originator of historic Parliamentary Rules of Order.

Accelerate plans to open the Donkin mine to provide jobs, to complement the bulk shipping operation of PEV at the former steel company dock, and to supply the Point Aconi power plant as well as the export market.

Mount a strong and extensive Cape Breton tourist marketing program throughout Europe. This would be country to country, so the federal tourist agency should play a large part.

Get federal participation in an overall harbour business development, promotional and capital development organization to concentrate on fully exploiting what should be one of our best assets, our world-class, strategically located harbour.

Why is PEV a subsidiary of AMCI, located here, of all the places? The company knows we could be a major centre.

To complete the picture, revive the already fully engineered and researched plan to dredge the harbour entrance to Panamax depth - the plan that the former harbour board almost brought to reality. This would enhance the bulk materials centre here. We would not be in competition with Halifax, and so this time perhaps the province would join to help.

Revive the building of the Fleur de lis Trail to take full advantage of Fortress Louisbourg. This would provide a Cape Breton tourist loop to benefit eastern Cape Breton, which now misses the extensive traffic that loops back through Baddeck. The project would complement the Cabot Trail traffic and all would benefit.

Have the Cape Breton railway take over all Nova Scotia Power Inc. coal delivery so that this would be a long-term operation to complement the railway's other business. The Point Aconi power plant is rated as a 40- to 50-year operation with a coal-fired, fluidized-bed system. It would make sense to cross the Little Bras d'Or channel with a rail bridge, at the old highway bridge site, connected to the adjacent rail line and run the rail line to and along the power plant road to provide a permanent rail connection. This should cut the cost transportation, which by truck is expensive, and should pay for itself, amortized over the life of the plant.

Use Department of Foreign Affairs commercial trade contacts to bring companies to use trained industrial tradespeople who formerly worked in the steel annd coal industries. These companies may be found in Europe, or North or South America, and could include family businesses with resources to be invested here.

Reserve the steel company slag pile for filling the tar ponds, and get on with it. Reserve some of the rest for filling the harbour shoreline south of the Sysco dock to adjacent deep water to enhance the PEV operation for the long term.

Do you think these proposals would have projected a better image of our community than rerunning the repetitious erroneous and fraudulent claim that this community is the location of "the worst toxic waste site in Canada"? It certainly isn't that when measured by proven results.

It's time we all, particularly the media, start to think and act positively if we want our community to progress. It has to start with those who are in the public eye projecting a positive and progressive image. After all, isn't our theme song, We'll Rise Again

Bruce McDonald is a retired Sydney businessman