EDITOR - TODD LIHOU: It's time to choose a strategy on the tank issue

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So much for that. I had originally written a column this week that suggested the chemical tank project in Cornwall had become mired in second gear.

I argued that the issue was withering, with few headlines to suggest there was anything imminent on the horizon, and that apathy was settling in, in Cornwall.

As is usually the case when I try to get organized and write something in advance, it all fell apart when work crews returned to the site on Monday, and 24 hours later city hall issued a pair of orders to once again halt construction near the Cornwall Harbour.

Bingo - time to crank out the Third World War font.

People were frustrated with this issue to start...now they're just plain mad.

Chuck Charlebois, who normally keeps his emotions in check, was as angry as I've ever heard him Tuesday, suggesting our leadership in Ottawa was little more than an "I-don't-know" government.

And social media posts were peppered with vehemence and the odd four-letter word to describe the disbelief many had with news that tank construction appeared to resume.

I was of two minds when the issue broke in December after I called Charlebois to get his thoughts on the project.

Initially I figured the tanks were here to stay. A lease had been signed, the hole had been dug and things looked bleak.

But, after some protests, a groundswell of criticism and even some attention from the federal government changed my mind – it was beginning to look like there just might be enough will to get the tank project shelved.

But here we are, with spring just around the corner (actually it’s down the street, taking its sweet time) and those tanks are no closer to being shelved than the aforementioned arrival of warm weather.

And with word that construction has once again started, things look as dismal as ever.

Don’t get me wrong – there have been successes.

First off, the city and its residents have come together in a way that hasn’t been seen in some time. The protests and vitriol speak volumes. City hall was initially successful in getting the project stopped in the short-term by way of its interim control bylaw that prohibited crews from doing any work.

Akwesasne has filed an application for a judicial review which adds to the firestorm of criticism.

But…time marches on and Trillium has fired back. The company has filed an appeal of the city’s bylaw and launched a lawsuit to have it quashed.

The bylaw was a Band-Aid solution...a chance to buy some time while an official strategy was sought.

The judicial review being sought by Akwesasne (which could be mirrored in Cornwall if the timing is right) will take weeks, months and maybe longer to complete itself – with no guarantee of a victory that sees the tanks removed.

The city is seeking information on eventually taking over the waterfront lands by way of Transport Canada’s so-called “port divestiture program”…but there still hasn’t been an iron-clad expression of interest from the corporation.

Even if city hall greenlights a plan to eventually take over the waterfront lands, there’s still the quagmire that is dealing with Akwesasne over its waterfront land claim.

The city has to enter into a partnership of some kind, or get Akwesasne to give up its claim – neither of which will happen overnight (in the case of the latter, it isn’t likely to happen at all).

Which brings us back to this point: nothing is happening as fast as it should be to get the tanks removed from our waterfront.

People who stop me on the street, or in the grocery store, ask me about the issue all the time.

Most, if not all of them, agree that the longer this issue festers without a clear indication of an end-game strategy from tank critics, the more difficult it will be to remove them.

What will save us? The city’s bylaw? Akwesasne’s legal challenge? Taking over ownership of the waterfront lands?

Maybe all of them – and maybe none.

I wish I could tell you which one, because honestly I don’t know.

But I know this: it’s time for us to hang our hat on something and take it to the wall. The longer this issue goes by with people behind the scenes scrambling to make up their minds, the less likely it will be that the tanks will be removed.

In the meantime, I'm concerned the opinions that get voiced every time a new headline appears will be replaced with good old-fashioned apathy.

Trillium, by way of its last-minute appeal of the city bylaw and lawsuit, not to mention the return of work crews, has shown that it is serious about seeing those tanks become operational.

We need a strategy that will remove the tanks – and we need it mapped out now before it’s too late.

Organizations: Band-Aid, Transport Canada

Geographic location: Cornwall, Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Joseph Goebbels
    February 24, 2014 - 16:22

    As long as we have a Federal MP guy lauzon who says "I don't Know" every time he is asked a question about the tanks or decent service for our Canadian Veterans All hope appears Lost!!!!!