Burn­ing rub­ber could ig­nite fiery back­lash

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL - Jim Vib­ert Jim Vib­ert spent 10 years as a po­lit­i­cal re­porter and edi­tor with the Hal­i­fax Her­ald; and 14 years with the Nova Sco­tia gov­ern­ment where he set up Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Nova Sco­tia.

The Nova Sco­tia Lib­eral gov­ern­ment may have un­wit­tingly awak­ened a docile flock that, when ag­i­tated, can be a dan­ger­ous beast. The un­wel­come wake-up ar­rived in the form of pro­vin­cial ap­proval of a tire burn­ing pro­posal by the La­farge Canada plant at Shortts Lake.

What the gov­ern­ment doesn’t seem to re­mem­ber is the ve­he­mence with which Shortts Lak­ers will de­fend their turf, nor does it un­der­stand the po­ten­tial po­lit­i­cal power res­i­dent in the sum­mer en­clave.

In one fell swoop, the gov­ern­ment united an op­po­si­tional force of en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, not-in-my-back­yarders, well­con­nected pro­fes­sion­als, and busi­ness peo­ple with money and in­flu­ence.

To make mat­ters worse, the de­ci­sion aligns the Lib­er­als with a big multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tion against a home­grown Nova Sco­tian busi­ness. The burn­ing rub­ber will be di­verted from a re­cy­cling busi­ness in Burn­side that has no spare tires.

When did “burn, baby, burn” re­place “re­cy­cle, re­use, re­duce?”

If more down­side is needed there’s the spec­tre of hypocrisy, an ugly trait that emerges dur­ing the move from the leg­is­la­ture’s op­po­si­tion to gov­ern­ment benches. Back in 2008, the last time the tire­burn­ing pro­posal was beaten back, then-op­po­si­tion Lib­er­als stood with the peo­ple and in­tro­duced a bill to pro­hibit the prac­tice.

Need more? La­farge has lost sim­i­lar bids to burn tires else­where in Canada.

The de­ci­sion re­in­forces the Lib­er­als’ nasty rep­u­ta­tion for a “who cares” at­ti­tude on the en­vi­ron­ment, earned by an at­tach­ment to clear cut­ting, salt cav­erns filled with nat­u­ral gas — a stone’s throw from Shortts Lake — and foot-drag­ging on cli­mate change.

This isn’t a fight the Lib­er­als would have picked be­fore the elec­tion. Maybe they think the dog days are a safe time to try to slip it by. Ex­cept, sum­mer is the time to mo­bi­lize op­po­si­tion at Shortts Lake. Peo­ple are there in July not Jan­uary.

The gov­ern­ment’s nod to a tire-fired kiln seemed to come out of the blue when in fact it was aimed at the blue. South­ern Colch­ester County, where the plant is lo­cated, is ge­net­i­cally pre­dis­posed to vote Tory.

But if the Lib­er­als think the dam­age will be con­tained within that area and the Colch­ester Musquodoboit Val­ley seat they’ve never won, they are mis­taken.

Year-round res­i­dents at the lake vote in Colch­ester-Musquodoboit Val­ley, but a look at most of their prop­er­ties will tell you their ten­ta­cles reach well be­yond. And sum­mer res­i­dents hail from Truro, Hal­i­fax and ev­ery­where in be­tween.

The La­farge ce­ment plant is grudg­ingly ac­cepted by Lak­ers only be­cause, in all but a hand­ful of cases, its pres­ence pre­dates theirs. When the ce­ment maker planted it­self at the north­west cor­ner, the lake was sparsely dot­ted by rus­tic sum­mer re­treats.

A boat tour to­day re­veals a lake en­tirely en­cir­cled by a mix of the op­u­lent, un­der­stated and old, lean­ing legacy struc­tures. In the in­ter­est of full dis­clo­sure, one of those lean­ing legacy cot­tages has been in my fam­ily since the Stan­field gov­ern­ment.

Re­gard­less of po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion, there are Lak­ers who can pick up the phone and im­me­di­ately harangue movers and shak­ers who have walk-in priv­i­leges to Premier Stephen McNeil’s of­fice.

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment might claim it is im­mune to pres­sure from the well-con­nected, but that’s a joke with no punch­line.

So far the burn per­mit is de­fended only by the En­vi­ron­ment Depart­ment and its min­is­ter, Iain Rankin. If op­po­si­tion mo­bi­lizes, as it did 10 years ago, the de­ci­sion could evolve from a lo­cal prob­lem to a throb­bing headache around the cabi­net ta­ble.

As a newly re-elected gov­ern­ment, the Lib­er­als may well stand be­hind the de­ci­sion, con­fi­dent that the fall­out will be muted or gone in four years.

They have been con­vinced it is the right call by their pub­lic ser­vice ad­vi­sors, an in­di­ca­tion they are still en­sconced in the in­su­lated, com­fort­able co­coon that cre­ates a de­pen­dence on the bu­reau­cracy.

Life in that bub­ble nearly cost them the gov­ern­ment in late May. It’s the cabi­net’s job to chal­lenge its se­nior ad­vi­sors. De­mand op­tions and sin­cere ef­forts to gauge le­git­i­mate pub­lic in­ter­ests. Dur­ing its first term, the McNeil cabi­net didn’t seem to un­der­stand that role or, at least, didn’t play it well.

If that’s not the cabi­net’s job, who’s is it? And if it isn’t done, Nova Sco­tia doesn’t need an elected gov­ern­ment at all. Ev­ery­thing can be turned over to the per­ma­nent, un­elected pub­lic ser­vice.

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