Push needed now for cleanup

By Keith MacDonald
Cape Breton Post Weekend Feedback
Sat. April. 3, 2004

Our community is at a pivotal moment for the Muggah Creek watershed cleanup, a critically important initiative for our area. Specifically mentioned in the most recent federal budget, the project seems poised to move ahead after a lengthy planning period.

Common sense would suggest that now is the opportune time to foster an environment in which government can complete crucial negotiations and finalize preparations.

There is ample evidence that the community understands the vital importance of engaging the process in preparation for the actual remediation effort, but what is not obvious is the vehicle appropriate for this purpose.

Clearly, the energies of community have to be focused in a way that makes it abundantly plain to the federal government that the cleanup must move forward with dispatch and optimal effectiveness.

Citizens should not assume that because the federal and provincial governments have declared their intentions to make money available for the remediation of the tar ponds and the coke ovens site that the future of the cleanup is secure. Far from it.

There are varied and complex issues ahead, any one of which could derail the project, to the enormous disadvantage of the community. For example, cost-sharing negotiations between Ottawa and Halifax are not complete. In fact, there is a major difference of opinion between the parties.

As if this were not concern enough, there is the potential that the project could be delayed up to five years or more, and possibly derailed, by a cumbersome federal environmental assessment.

The community needs to be heard on the cleanup, and at no time must government be unclear on the disposition of the majority of residents on key issues such as those I've noted. For this reason, the Metro Cape Breton Junior Chamber has started an informal consultation with key local organizations and groups on the formation of a representative committee to orchestrate community support for the cleanup.

Our expectation is that the merit of structured community intervention at this important time will be clear and that a credible vehicle can be fashioned for this purpose.

Keith Macdonald
President, Metro Cape Breton Junior Chamber