MP expects projects to go ahead

Cape Breton Post
Tues., Dec. 18, 2003

Projects like the cleanup of the Sydney Tar Ponds and twinning a section of Highway 125 will likely go ahead as planned, says Sydney-Victoria Liberal MP Mark Eyking.

Eyking doubts those projects will be canned in light of Prime Minister Paul Martin’s review of federal spending, announced this week. The new PM froze major capital spending programs, capped the size of the federal civil service and announced a wide review of Ottawa’s finances.

Eyking was appointed parliamentary secretary to the agriculture minister with emphasis on Agri-food last week, when Martin unveiled his cabinet.

He also took part in the MPs’ ‘rap session’ and is not surprised the prime minister ordered a look at the government’s financial picture. “Two things came out of the caucus session: we are not going into a deficit position and health care will be maintained or improved,” Eyking said.

Government revenues are not as flush as a year ago, he noted, whether it’s due to the SARS outbreak, the war in Iraq, or mad cow worries, so the government wants to look at all projects.

David Anderson retained the Environment Department portfolio and knows the file and the recommendations that have been made on the Sydney Tar Ponds cleanup, Eyking added. “It’s not like I have to totally brief a new minister and press my case,” said Eyking, although he acknowledged they will want to look at everything that has been committed so far. “We have a situation where the government is not cash flush, but I remain confident; nothing tells me it won’t happen.”

The reality is that social programs and health care are priorities for this government, the MP said.

The twinning of the highway from Ball’s Creek to Sydney River, a Canada-Nova Scotia infrastructure program project announced last summer, has been signed off with the province and is already underway. He doubted if that project would be put on hold.

Bras d’Or-Cape Breton Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner said it is prudent for government or private business to be responsible to make sure where every dollar of taxpayer money is allocated – that it supports something efficient and effective.

Martin’s funding review “is going to force political representatives and senior bureaucrats to stand together and fight for what they feel is important and what is of benefit to the regions and their constituents,” he said.

A similar review in 1995 translated to cuts in Human Resources Development, Fisheries and Oceans and transfer payments to the provinces.

Cuzner said the country is better off as a result of that review. “It is time again to assess what it is we are doing and what we as a nation are providing, and if established programs are accomplishing what they are intended to do,” he said.

He added there are a number of projects he has been working on that have ministerial approval which he hopes is enough to make them happen.

Garth Bangay, Environment Canada’s regional director general, said the federal government continues to review and assess options for the clean up of the tar ponds and coke ovens sites.

While that process is going forward, work continues on the removal of the Domtar tanks, design work on the coffer dam, rerouting the coke ovens brook and steps to remove the cooling pond. Bangay said government is setting its priorities and looking at each program in terms of what has been accomplished for the investments made.

Provincial Energy Minister Cecil Clarke said a review is necessary if Ottawa wants to avoid repeating the $1-billion foul up with the gun registry. “It is appropriate for Ottawa to identify areas where dollars are to be allocated and Nova Scotia will be at the table to work with them.”

Cape Breton has two able MPs who have a key role and share a common interest with the province on these projects, he added.