Cornwall city hall
CORNWALL, Ontario – City councillors are demanding to see a copy of a lease agreement between the federal government and a company building a pair of controversial chemical tanks on the Cornwall waterfront.
Councillors were incredulous in their dismay at a special council meeting Thursday night, when they learned the lease agreement had not been released for public consumption.
“If they want to open everything up, they should be open,” said Coun. Andre Rivette. “This doesn’t send a good message.
“It’s sending a bad signal.”
His sentiments were echoed around the table.
“Without that document we don’t know where we’re going,” said Coun. Glen Grant. “We have to get that document. It will explain a lot that we don’t know.”
City councillors want the tanks removed from the waterfront and reaffirmed that position Thursday night – but added it will be difficult to take part in meetings with all the players involved and negotiate a settlement without knowing the details of the lease agreement signed last fall.
“At this point in time I can only imagine it is for legal matters that they don’t believe they are obliged to dispose of it and they choose not to,” said Mayor Bob Kilger. “It would certainly be very helpful to have full disclosure with the lease.”
The city will explore the option of assuming ownership of the Cornwall Harbour and neighbouring properties when it sits down in a meeting Friday with the federal government and Akwesasne to learn about a so-called “port divestiture program.”
But that process will not be an easy one.
The city may find itself partnering, or at the very least negotiating, with Akwesasne to take over the Cornwall Harbour land.
Thursday night city councillors learned Cornwall will have to get consent or partner with the Mohawk first nation if it ever wants to assume ownership of waterfront lands that includes the controversial chemical tank project.
Just how such a scenario would play out remains unclear, though there will be multiple rounds of discussions before anything concrete takes place because Akwesasne has a land claim filed for lands surrounding the harbour.
“You’re never going to get Akwesasne to give up their land rights,” said Rivette. “I’d be very, very surprised, because they would be losing their bargaining power. I can’t see them saying take the land and do what you want with it.”
There might be an option to partner with Akwesasne to assume stewardship of the property, but thus far there has been nothing public out of the Mohawk territory to suggest any kind of partnership is imminent.
There’s also the matter of how the lease agreements in place would be affected should the city and Akwesasne ultimately be successful in taking over the property.
Kilger was unable to shed light on that matter when approached following Thursday night’s meeting.
The city has until March 31 to submit an application to take part in the divestiture program.