ED ALLARD: An alternative look at the chemical tank problem

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For city councillors facing election in nine months time, the storage tanks issue must look like manna from heaven.  Here’s an issue tailor made for connecting with potential voters.  They can rant, rage, pontificate and point fingers with abandon.  There’s hardly any downside.  They can’t help but come off in a positive light as staunch protectors of residents’ 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’m somewhat amused by councillors’ anger over the federal government’s 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’re 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’m less amused by some of the fear mongering.  We’re 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’s 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’m 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’s interests.  It’s good that Trillium has wisely suspended operations while discussions are ongoing, which avoids dealing with touchy legal matters, to everyone’s 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’s the way I see it. 

Organizations: Aramark

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Recent comments

  • stellabystarlight
    January 24, 2014 - 18:41

    Dear Ed: Get Real The Scandal plaqued Harper Government is hanging on by the skin of its teeth. Trusting that no harm will come from these tanks is about a misguided as hoping the Alberta Tar Sands won't ruin First Nations Air and Water for decades to come That local MP Guy Lauzon seems to be hiding in the shadows unsure of what to say without prior approval by PMO is just sad to see. Deaths continue to mount with our Military and letters to our MP only result in NON answers to questions like "why is your gov shutting down Veterans help centres????" And thats the way..it IS Friday Jan 24th Walter Cronkite reporting for CBS News "The federal government has a fairly broad mandate and will not shrink from using it."