For city councillors facing election in nine months time, the storage tanks issue must look like manna from heaven. Here‚Äôs an issue tailor made for connecting with potential voters. They can rant, rage, pontificate and point fingers with abandon. There‚Äôs hardly any downside. They can‚Äôt help but come off in a positive light as staunch protectors of residents‚Äô interests. And if the issue gets resolved before fall, they can accept some of the credit. If not, well, they can point fingers at Guy Lauzon and say, with some truth, that it was really his responsibility all along. Contenders, on the other hand, are on the sidelines and must seek out opportunities to get involved in some way to share any credit.
But I‚Äôm somewhat amused by councillors‚Äô anger over the federal government‚Äôs refusal, so far anyway, to release the lease agreement between it and Trillium. I can recall some years back when our city refused to release details of its contract and settlement with the Aramark restaurant operation in the Civic Complex. I guess the situation looks different when you‚Äôre on the outside looking in. If councillors went back over the arguments the city used back then, they might find some interesting parallels with the current situation.
I‚Äôm less amused by some of the fear mongering. We‚Äôre hearing about potential chemical spills, danger for the environment and so forth. Somehow we avoided disaster for all the years that the oil tanks were there, so what new factors would suggest the new storage tanks will be any more dangerous? And why would that danger be greater today than back then? In my view those fears are being played up to draw supporters and nothing more. I suggest that any new construction will be measurably safer than what was there before because of improved environmental and construction standards. Federal engineers will ensure those standards are met because it‚Äôs in their interests too. The city permits department is not the only agency capable of vetting construction plans.
Chuck Charlebois has also suggested the condo development on the Cotton Mills property could be affected. Yet, for years, that area has been and still is an industrial area. There is a noisy, cluttered steel mill operation just across the road and an ugly warehouse on the dock spoiling any view of the river. The developer knew all that when he planned his development. He also knew that the city did not own the tank farm lands and could not guarantee any operations there. While there may have been expectations for the future, a developer has to be a realist. In any event, the new storage tank area is somewhat farther away than either the steel mill or the warehouse, so I‚Äôm skeptical of suggestions the new condos will be cancelled or delayed.
I think the issue is complex enough without all the false flags. Keep in mind that city officials do not have much of a hammer on this. The federal government has a fairly broad mandate and will not shrink from using it. We cannot escape Akwesasne‚Äôs interests. It‚Äôs good that Trillium has wisely suspended operations while discussions are ongoing, which avoids dealing with touchy legal matters, to everyone‚Äôs benefit. I have confidence our mayor has the political experience to navigate the intricacies of the matter and to deal effectively with the federal government. But the point man on this really should be our MP and pressure to resolve the issue should be focussed on him. In the end, any negotiation will involve some compromise and we should all be mindful of that.
And that‚Äôs the way I see it.