Passing the buck
Feds unlikely to ever help with MV Miner cleanup
‘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.