05 May 2010

The Thick of It: environment minister version

Environment minister Charlene Johnson.

Think Nicola Murray but without the gravitas.

The province’s environment minister might still be wrestling to find a way to deal with a tire recycling program.  Her only solution to the piles of tires thus far has been shipping them to Quebec for burning.

Johnson might be struggling to sort out the waste management strategy she and her cabinet colleagues photocopied in 2007 from their Liberal predecessors’ version from 2002. 

Yes, friends they just pushed back all the implementation dates by a decade.

Charlene and her colleagues may have buggered up the Abitibi expropriation such that the public is on the hook for cleaning up three of five sites needing remediation.

The sustainable development act may be lost under someone’s desk.

But Charlene knows what it is to be a minister responsible for protecting the environment.

Consider her comments about calls for greater protection for woodland caribou, creatures she has under her jurisdiction:

"I know there [are] calls to have no harvesting at all within the core areas and the buffer areas, but then there would be no logging industry," Johnson told CBC News.

So there’ll be $15 million of study. That’s despite the fact that a decade-old study by government scientists showed that logging within nine kilometres of caribou can seriously affect the animal’s behaviour.

And in her latest round, Johnson thought a bottled water ban in provincial government offices was risible.

Yes, gentle readers, she didn’t just give a straightforward answer.  Charlene thought that ridiculing the New Democrat leader was the right way to go:

Mr. Speaker, I have to say I am absolutely shocked. We are dealing with an oil spill in Louisiana. We have all kinds of fishery issues that have been before the House. There are health issues, there are other issues in environment and I am getting asked questions about banning bottled water in government -

It is not to say that we do not take the issue seriously, Mr. Speaker, but I would certainly suggest that there are a lot of other issues, particularly in the environment that we can address.

Mr. Speaker, I just had a scan around government the other day. There are offices where meetings are held in government that there are no sinks. So, what is she proposing that we do not have anything to drink?

At the very least, we should all be thankful.

Thankful, that is, because even if Charlene is confused about what ocean it is that sits offshore (Hint:  it isn’t the Gulf of Mexico), then at the very least, Charlene knows that compared to the crap-load of major policy issues that have been sitting on her desk for years without any serious attention, bottled water in government isn’t actually the most pressing issue.

That is, not the most pressing even if it would be probably the easiest one of that back-log for her to deal with.


BTDTGTTS Update:  As someone reminded your humble and now increasingly forgetful e-scribbler, Newfoundland and Labrador already had a ministry like Nicola’s with her “fourth sector” initiative.  We still do.

It’s called the minister responsible for Penny Rowe, errr, the volunteer sector, currently run by Dave Denine.  The first minister responsible for liaising with Penny used to rattle on about the fourth sector, which is a term penny used to use all the time.

BOHICA Update:  Meanwhile, the environmentalist minister landed a major gaffe on Tuesday which is likely to do wonders for the ongoing negotiations and legal action over Abitibi.  Things that were TARFU and FUBAR just went to the final stage, BOHICA. 

Charlene, quoted in the Wednesday Telegram which is sadly not online: 

“Our only concern is that the environment be brought back to the state that Abitibi found it in when they came here to use our resources.  We don’t even ask what the cost is.  As long as we’re fine with the way they’re doing it, that cost is really Abitibi’s responsibility.”

Charlene, God love her little socks, likely thinks that the big evil old company got here in 1905. That is the year on those leases which Carlene and the crowd in the House of Assembly voted to tear up a couple of years ago.

Unfortunately, the woman should actually read the backgrounders on the files she has stacked up on her desk. 

If she did, she would know that Abitibi arrived in the province in 1969.

Not 1905.

Two years after the first Summer of Love.

So basically, Charlene just said that it is government policy to restore the only land in the province Abitibi still owns back to the condition in was in 1969.  Would she like the original pollution restored then, in the places where,as the prov gov already acknowledged, the company has cleaned up a bit? Let’s hope not.

So that’s Botwood sorted out back to the year Sesame Street started.

Then there’s Stephenville.

Abitibi didn’t get that land until 1979.

And by that time both the US Air Force and the provincial government had been peeing on it for the better part of three decades.  First there was an air force base and then there was the infamous linerboard mill.  Huge disaster – at least financially – which shut down in 1979 and left both a contaminated site and a gigantic debt load for the taxpayers.

Then Abitibi bought it for a dollar, at the behest of the Peckford administration.  Abitibi, meanwhile, diverted a brand-spanking new Valmet paper making machine from its original destination of Grand Falls and set it up at the old linerboard building. 

Poof:  the long-awaited third mill, made by splitting one of the others in two.

Now since 2005, Abitibi has already levelled the building the linerboard crowd put there.  So strictly speaking, they’ve actually put the site back in the shape it was just after the Americans frigged off - 1967.

That’s even better than Charlene said the government wanted.

And yet Charlene accuses others of not understanding what is going on.

As Ron Stoppable once said, this would be so cool if it wasn’t going to hurt us.