It's time for the NDP to show its difference on openness to public

Letter by Wayne McKay
Cape Breton Post
Fri., Oct. 23, 2009

Last week I attended an open house presented by the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency. The open house was to inform the public about the solidification and stabilization that will be starting this month.

Many questions posed by the members of the public. Some were answered well; other responses were disturbing. For instance, the only guarantee was that the finished product would be monitored for 25 years. There was no guarantee that the solidification and stabilization would actually hold up or that it wouldn't need further monitoring or fixing during or after that 25 years.

The most surprising response was to a woman who asked why her e-mail sent almost 200 days earlier hadn't been answered. One of the agency staff stated there had been a ministerial directive to the agency not to answer any e-mails. This is quite disturbing since the agency claims to be open about everything.

This directive was never announced before this. I have written numerous e-mails to the agency and to the new provincial minister, Bill Estabrooks, and haven't received any response either.

I have been trying to get assurances that health and safety are the No. 1 concern on this project. I have also asked that the minister meet with the people and hear their concerns.

The two big concerns right now are that the agency's communications be fixed and that the work be carried out under cover to prevent potential toxic air emissions from jeopardizing people's health. Estabrooks hasn't even had the decency to return an e-mail or a phone call.

The NDP was elected to government because it claimed to be different. This silence on this important environmental issue is more of the same. It is frightening that elected representatives would order a government agency not to engage with the people, the taxpayers, who are paying for this project and to whom these officials and this agency should be accountable.

When I spoke to people on behalf of the NDP during the provincial election, I assured them we would be different. I hope I will start seeing signs soon that my assurances were correct.

Wayne McKay