Federal election could derail tar ponds remediation: JAG

By Nancy King
Cape Breton Post
Sat., May 1, 2004

SYDNEY - An advocay group is looking for a meeting with federal and provincial officials, fearing an announcement regarding the cleanup of the Muggah Creek watershed may be derailed if a federal election is called.

"We're concerned that there haven't been any significant announcements about the cleanup, that is the project itself, what kind of a cleanup method they're going to use, and this issue of the funding is of concern throughout our community," said Dan Fraser, chair of the Joint Action Group on Environmental Cleanup. "We know that the community wants this cleaned up sooner rather later".

While the JAG secretariat closed its doors last year, a group of volunteers has continued to meet on the issue.

After several years of study, JAG presented recommendations on cleanup methods to the two levels of government last year, but there hasn't been any formal word from Halifax or Ottawa when the cleanup will proceed or what methods will be used, Fraser said.

With a federal election call expected at any time, Fraser said JAG members are worried any decision to move ahead with the remediation may be delayed or possibly overturned. "Once the election is called, then there are no announcements, generally speaking, because it becomes a political issue then " he said. "If an election is called it's going to be delayed at least another couple of months, for sure . . . It's a matter of urgency to get some work done real quick about getting an announcement about funding and about the project itself."

He intends to contact both levels of government seeking a meeting as soon as possible.

Fraser noted that cost-sharing negotiations appear to be a stumbling block. The province has indicated it wants to contribute one-third of the overall cost of the remediation, which is expected to cost as much as $400 million. The federal government has countered that it is looking to equally split the cost with the province.