ED ALLARD: The Grinch who stole the waterfront

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Storage tanks on the waterfront!  Now there’s a great Christmas gift for all the latent activists in town who might be looking for something to satisfy activist urges.   With careful feeding, it could keep them busy through the holidays.   While it seems to be a big deal here in Cornwall, I’m sure that in Ottawa they will have done a political analysis and figured it represents no danger for the riding, so it’s a ho-hum moment compared to the Senate issue.  

But seriously, I don’t really like the idea of yet more industry setting up on our waterfront either.  After all, various groups have spent a lot of time, effort and money (some of it ours) developing wonderful visions of what our waterfront could be.  Like children seeing visions of sugarplums, our minds have willingly adopted the ideas.  This new development really pricks that balloon.  It’s hard to climb down from great expectations.  

On the other hand, I see it as a blessing in disguise.  

Of course, there’s been one major problem all along.  The city doesn’t own the land.  In fact it can’t even control how it’s used or what taxes are paid.  Until that is sorted out, this and similar problems will continue to occur.  Getting this government to consult on local concerns has been an obvious struggle.  

There is a Waterfront Development Committee, which is trying to do good things but is really limited to shuffling deck chairs around the bits of waterfront that the city does own.  

There is also a Waterfront Land Development Committee, which is charged with moving the yardsticks on acquiring federally owned land.  But it hasn’t really been heard from for some time now; I mean seriously, nary a peep for ages.  They report to council once a year, but … and just what our MP is doing to help advance this file is hidden in the shadows.  

Oh, and there is also a new strategic plan that includes an item to “continue with” waterfront land acquisition, buried away amongst its 110 (!) priorities.  So the city might get around to it, when?  2030 perhaps?   

So the whole land acquisition strategy seems to be firmly stuck in neutral.  Of course, successful land acquisition requires a willing partner and, admittedly, the current federal government has not shown much interest.  Land claims and border issues have clouded the waters of late.  

But these storage tanks offer an opportunity to sweep away some of the cobwebs and pump some new life into the enterprise.  Had there been a more determined effort beforehand, this issue might not have arisen at all.  

Mind you, if a lease has actually been signed and some site work is obviously underway, there will likely be costs to undo it all; that’s if it can be undone.  Are those activists prepared to see those costs tacked on to our city tax bill?  What about the rest of us?  Just saying.  

But regardless of what happens on the tanks, the real issue is land acquisition.  I believe the meeting with Minister Raitt is important mainly for that reason.  It is equally important that the mayor and our MP are on the same page on what should be transferred and a reasonable timeline for it.  This is an opportunity to get the topic on the political agenda because, ultimately, it’s the only likely route to a reasonably timely conclusion.  

And that’s the way I see it. 

Organizations: Waterfront Land Development Committee

Geographic location: Cornwall, Ottawa

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