Environment Minister Gordon Wilson says he has read all 3,000 pages and “about eight binders worth” of submissions related to whether he should approve a new effluent treatment plant proposed by Northern Pulp. The new plant would replace the Boat Harbour facility which by law is scheduled to close January 31, 2020. The Boat Harbour facility has been next door to the Pictou Landing First Nation for 50 years and the First Nation has been promised by the Premier it will close.
Wilson told reporters this afternoon he has three choices: to reject the proposal, to approve it with conditions, or to ask Northern Pulp to provide more study and information. He said his decision will be based on “science and evidence.” The minister refused to answer questions about whether he intends to release his decision before the December 17 deadline next Tuesday. (There are rumours it could come tomorrow.)
PC leader Tim Houston said: “Here we are two weeks before Christmas and we have thousands of people across the province on the edge of their seats having sleepless nights not knowing what is going to happen and that is a failure of government. This was predictable five years ago.”
Would Houston approve the proposed effluent treatment facility?
“I don’t know. I don’t have all the information that the Environment Minister has,” Houston said. “What I have is a number of concerns. We can’t risk the Northumberland Strait.”
NDP Opposition leader Gary Burrill said: “ Fifty days from today is the day we meet the deadline under the Boat Harbour Act to close the plant. I think it is contemptuous of the people of the province that every time the premier and his ministers are asked the question ‘do you intend to uphold the Act and stop the flow of effluent into Boat Harbour on January 31?,’ they evade the question. That is the question they should answer.”
The proposed stadium for the proposed Schooner CFL team is a political football which Minister Geoff MacLellan does not intend to touch for fear of fumbling. The Minister of Business and of Tourism continues to say he has not received an official letter or proposal from the Schooner Stadium group led by Anthony Leblanc despite the fact HRM Council’s decision to provide $20 million subject to a long list of conditions means the ball is now very much in the province’s court (to mix several sport metaphors).
The proponents’ proposal includes asking the province to place a new levy on rental cars and and double the tax on hotel rooms so that $3-4 million a year could flow to the Schooners to build a football stadium. MacLellan has received a letter from the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia saying it is vehemently opposed to this plan. Here’s what MacLellan said when asked for his position on the levy:
It will be within our purview to review what the options are. But we have done no formal work on a levy to this point. Until we have a proposal in front of us, there is really nothing we can do.
Fallout from toppled crane
Labour Minister Labi Kousoulis says he hopes to have the investigator’s report “early in the new year” that will pinpoint the cause of the crane collapse during Hurricane Dorian. The collapse affected landlords and tenants in several occupied buildings as well as two high-rises under construction in the Brenton Street area. The minister wants to see the report before increasing the $5 million amount crane companies currently must deposit to cover liability. Kousoulis agrees that’s not sufficient to clean up the mess when disaster strikes.
A number of downtown Halifax streets were closed for nearly two months. A new Luffing crane that specializes in working in tight spaces is enroute to finish the job at the Fares’ multi-unit residential development. The province advanced $2 million to clear the twisted crane wreckage so that residents and businesses could attempt to get back to normal while the companies responsible for the crane accident hired lawyers to sort out the blame and go after millions in damages from insurance companies.
Some businesses, including Thornbloom (a home décor store) and Thumpers hair salon, are considering a class action lawsuit. Business Minister Geoff MacLellan has agreed to ask Municipal Affairs if there is any money that can be found to compensate a handful of small business owners such as Stillwells and Humani-T Café which incurred costs their insurance won’t cover. For example, paying employees who weren’t able to work but whom the owners didn’t want to let go. Costs associated with spoiled food and beverages. The meeting between half a dozen small businesses and Minister MacLellan was organized by NDP MLA Claudia Chender. She estimated small businesses were hoping for total financial compensation in the ballpark of a couple hundred thousand dollars.
Homes for disabled people
Community Services Minister Kelly Regan says the McNeil government remains committed to finding appropriate homes for more than a thousand disabled people on the wait list. Back in 2014, the Liberals endorsed a policy known as “A Road Map for Transforming N.S. Services” to help people with disabilities find housing in the community instead of being warehoused in nursing homes. Back in 2013 when Kelly Regan was an Opposition politician and Community Services critic calling on the NDP government to provide more housing, there were only 650 people on the waiting list for housing in the community.
Flash forward six years. The Community Services Department headed by Regan committed to building eight new small-options homes two years ago. Three are open. The Minister says there have been delays associated with the other five, which will open next year. She refused to say whether the department plans to build any more.
A proposal from author Jen Powley and the developer of EcoGreen Homes to provide four units for four physically disabled adults (including Powley who has MS and uses a wheelchair), has been with the Department of Community Services for 10 months awaiting an answer. Because the residents require some medical care as well as housing, the co-housing proposal requires signoff from the Department of Health as well as Community Services. Today Regan said she valued Powley’s contribution and promised an answer “soon, probably early in the new year.”
More tidal power projects
Energy Minister Darren Mombourquette has licensed another small experimental tidal power project in Petit Passage near Tiverton, Digby County. Nova Innovation will begin with a single turbine in 2020 but hopes to eventually expand to an array of 15 turbines producing 1.5 MW. The company is headquartered in Scotland where in 2016 it became the first to produce offshore tidal power near the Shetland Islands.
Mombourquette also announced a Request for Proposals for companies interested in leasing a berth and testing a tidal turbine in the considerably rougher waters of the Bay of Fundy at the FORCE (Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy) demonstration site near Parrsboro. There is a catch. The tidal developer who wants to rent the berth vacated by Cape Sharp (a joint venture between OpenHydro and Emera) must first retrieve a broken 10-storey turbine abandoned at the bottom of the Minas Passage. That operation is expected to cost in the range of $4 million.
Thanks for holding Kelley Regan’s feet to the fire. Her abysmal response to the need for a significant increase in community living options for people with disabilities is shameful. Walter Thompson, in his ruling on the McLean et. al. human rights case rejected the notion of a large general damage award as a deterrent against the government continuing to discriminate against those folks. Regan’s performance, fronting for the McNeil government, shows that Thompson got it wrong. Something drastic, like a large award for damages is clearly required to wake up this government.
How is it that taxpayers are on the hook for any compensation regarding the crane “accident”? We better be compensated once the insurance claims are ironed out……but I superset once again private profit, public liability.
This part of paragraph 2 of the item is self explanatory : ” The province advanced $2 million to clear the twisted crane wreckage so that residents and businesses could attempt to get back to normal while the companies responsible for the crane accident hired lawyers to sort out the blame and go after millions in damages from insurance companies.”.
Not to mention that construction safety is a provincial responsibility.