Pass­ing the buck

Feds un­likely to ever help with MV Miner cleanup

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL -

‘Lisa from Whit­ney Pier,’ aka Trans­port Min­is­ter Lisa Raitt, breezed through Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity this week with goody bags of taxpayers’ money to spread around.

On Wed­nes­day, Raitt an­nounced $1.8 mil­lion in fed­eral fund­ing to pur­chase fire­fight­ing equip­ment for the J.A. Dou­glas McCurdy Syd­ney Air­port.

Then, less than 24 hours later, there she was again, of­fer­ing up $800,000 to­ward a $2.4 mil­lion repaving pro­ject along five ma­jor roads in our fine me­trop­o­lis. Good­ness, can a fed­eral elec­tion call be far be­hind? But when asked — yet again — about the pos­si­bil­ity of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment con­tribut­ing to­wards the $11.9 mil­lion (and count­ing) cleanup of the MV Miner, Raitt didn’t mince words.

“Again, no, and I’ve told (pro­vin­cial) Min­is­ter (Ge­off ) MacLel­lan about that as well from the be­gin­ning,” she told a Cape Bre­ton Post re­porter. Well, ac­tu­ally, that’s not quite ac­cu­rate. The MV Miner, as read­ers will re­call, was a 12,000tonne, 223-me­tre bulk car­rier that ran aground off Scatarie Is­land af­ter a tow line snapped in rough seas dur­ing transit from Mon­treal to Tur­key nearly four years ago.

What Raitt ac­tu­ally did say on Aug. 14, 2013, a month af­ter tak­ing on the Trans­port Min­is­ter’s port­fo­lio, was that she was still be­ing briefed on the in­ci­dent and that a de­ci­sion on what her depart­ment would do would be made “in the com­ing months.”

At that time, too, the Main-a-Dieu Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion wrote to Raitt and in­vited her to visit the com­mu­nity and wreck site.

Sean Howard, who wrote the let­ter, said the key fact in the case of the MV Miner is the “demon­stra­ble neg­li­gence” of the Depart­ment of Trans­port in is­su­ing a li­cence for the tow­ing of the ves­sel, at the height of fall storm sea­son, with­out re­quir­ing from the own­ers ad­e­quate in­sur­ance to cover the costs of any sal­vage and re­lated cleanup.

It was all to no avail as Raitt ul­ti­mately in­formed MacLel­lan that no fed­eral cash would be forth­com­ing, a stance she has never waivered from.

But this week, she did sug­gest that MacLel­lan di­rect his fund­ing re­quests to the fed­eral en­vi­ron­ment and fish­eries de­part­ments.

That, folks, looks like a clas­sic case of pass­ing the buck and isn’t it odd that it has taken nearly two years for this op­tion to have been men­tioned. At least pub­licly.

Wouldn’t it have been more use­ful if Raitt, in­stead, had found a lit­tle time over the past cou­ple of years to have cof­fee with the en­vi­ron­ment and fish­eries min­is­ters in Ot­tawa, ex­plain the sit­u­a­tion and then get all the stake­hold­ers in the same room to dis­cuss pos­si­ble so­lu­tions.

From this van­tage point, it seems her pri­mary con­tri­bu­tion to the cleanup con­tro­versy is to say her depart­ment is not in­volved.

MacLel­lan, de­spite his smiles for the cam­era in photo ops with “Lisa from Whit­ney Pier” this week, cer­tainly isn’t happy about Raitt’s stance and holds out hope that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will do the right thing and help with the MV Miner clean-up bill.

We say don’t hold your breath. At least not with this gov­ern­ment.

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