06 May 2010

Libs accuse Tory minister of keeping enviro risks under wraps

In a news release issued Thursday, Opposition leader Yvonne Jones accused the provincial government, including environmentalist minister Charlene Johnson of being “negligent in not revealing they had reports which exposed the full extent of pollution on former Abitibi properties, particularly the scope of contamination at the mill site in Grand Falls-Windsor.”

Jones said evaluation by the government’s enviro consultant – Conestoga-Rovers Associates  - revealed that reports on Grand Falls “identify heavy metals and other toxins polluting 16 areas exceeding human safety guidelines.”

In the House of Assembly, Johnson said that:
Mr. Speaker, this information is public. I have offered it to the member, to come over to my office, and she has sent her staff over. I have offered it to the mayor of Grand Falls –
Of course, the information wasn’t public until Johnson let the opposition take a peek.  And the documents aren’t publicly available if the public has to troop into Charlene’s office, find the papers among the mound of major issues that have been stacked up unattended on her desk for years and then only take notes on them.
Johnson also was doing a bit of a nosepuller with respect to Grand Falls-Windsor.  Apparently, the mayor didn’t have any information until Jones’ office sent him an e-mail wondering if the town council had seen anything on the enviro review of the mill site.

We know he didn’t have the information, since, as Johnson admitted in the legislature:
Mr. Speaker, I had to pick up the phone and call the mayor of Grand Falls-Windsor yesterday to reassure the people of that community that there is not an immediate health and safety concern there.
Johnson defended her actions by saying that the reports showed a potential life safety issue in Buchans  - tailings supposedly blowing around town - but not in Grand Falls where, according to Johnson, all the enviro issues are confined to the site.

Of course, the whole matter could be cleared up if the documents in question were actually in the public domain.