Another community group may take over JAG: report

By Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Thursday, Aug. 28, 2003

A small group of community representatives with a "high degree of legitimacy" may replace the Joint Action Group once it's ceases to exist, Sept. 18, reveals a report released Wednesday.

An independent consultant outlines the interviews of several government officials, influential businessmen, union representatives, health officials and community organizations in the 39-page report that concludes some form of community liaison or advisory committee is needed during the cleanup.

"At the least it should be used for two-way infbrmation flow," concludes Bruce Smith, the author of the report. "There is a potential for a higher degree of involvement, depending upon the external circumstances, the details and timing of the project and the needs and desires of the community and the implementing organization."

The report also recommends a model that matches the diversity of the community as well as providmg a venue for minority voices in the area.

Some possible engagement methods include a Web site, storefront office, site tours, phone line, printed materials, personal contact, public media as well as other possibilities.

Maria Dover, project director for Environment Canada, said a final decision as to what will replace JAG will come from cabinet before Sept. 18. She said government will be presented with the report as well as a collection of other information gathered during the summer. "We haven't put more emphasis on one piece of information as opposed to another," she added.

Gary Campbell, executive director of the provincial Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, agreed that the aim is to have a seamless transition from JAG to "whatever the new process will be. We'll wait and see what comes."

JAG chairperson Dan Fraser said there are some good features in the report, including the inference of an implementation team for the remediation of the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites. "It's important to move forward with the cleanup. It will be good if it has some teeth."

What concerns him is the possibility that JAG's vast array of knowledge and experience is lost as well as the extensive amount of information and resources gathered through the community-driven process. "If that's not used, it would be very unfortunate."

The features recommended in the report are also comparable to what JAG offers now, he said. One of the few differences he sees is the lack of volunteers likely to be involved in the new model.