CORNWALL Ontario – The Chemical tanks on the former Kaneb Oil tank site issue is heating up again. Some of the questions I get in conversation is what I would have done if I had been mayor or on council in regards to the tanks as much of the issue is in the hands of the Federal government?
While that is true there is still the HUGE issue of timeline that Mayor Kilger and the city are refusing to answer, and sadly this council is afraid or simply too addled to bring into open council?
In December 2013 the mayor and just about all our community leadership acted in mock surprise and rage about these tanks on the waterfront. A rally took place led by Chuck Charlebois and The Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber decided to not send CFN, the largest newspaper in the city, their press release which is an odd way to try and get as many people as possible to the event.
About 60 people showed up; mostly either connected to City Hall, the Chamber, or the usual politicos around Cornwall; mostly retired folk. The actual public was not really represented and very little information was available via other media.
CFN broke the news via an email from Transport Canada that the City knew as early as February 2013. At that point the question became who at City Hall knew and why was this information buried? What the heck exactly happened? At a meeting at the Civic Complex that about 150 people showed up; this time more of the public, the message was quite clear, NO TANKS.
Likewise our MP, Guy Lauzon stated he knew nothing of the project until it went public. He himself did not condemn the tanks nor has he really done anything since. When his name was attached to public meetings with the guilty parties he clearly was not representing his constituents which isn’t really all that surprising.
Council’s response was some rumbling about not wanting tanks, but no comments or questions in open council. While insiders have shared that it was in fact discussed in closed camera that really does the public no good. After all how can the public come to an educated opinion if they are kept in the dark by City Hall and the media? And surely it’s a councilors first job to represent the people that elected him and the only way for that information to be discussed is either via open council or bringing to the media.
Mayor Kilger himself has yet to condemn the tanks although he has made rumbles about working for the will of council.
The facts are clear though that his government knew about the tanks in February 2013, knew of the plans in Spring of 2013, said nothing officially until December when the Mayor was caught lying about his knowledge as he had shared about them after a waterfront committee meeting on November 21st, 2013; and in the months since there has been no firm leadership regarding the tanks other than a very limp by-law that has now been challenged and most likely will cost taxpayers a bag of money once its kicked out by the courts giving Trillium Distribution Cornwall Inc. the green light to finish construction.
Politics is a funny game. Watch a TV show like House of Cards where there is not a single redeemable character; not a one, except maybe for Cashew the Guinea Pig.
The Federal government watches any situation. What they saw in Cornwall was a petty divided community leadership that led to almost no political blow back from the population.
I in fact called for a march from MP Lauzon’s office to City Hall, a few blocks. Chuck Charlebois actually emailed media to make sure they knew that he was not not part of the event thus sabotaging it. In spite of that about 100 people showed up including some of our neighbours form Akwesasne. Where I emailed the media with a release on the Tuesday stating that I would wear my activist hat for this rally and not write about it in CFN they stood down. The Seaway News and Standard Freeholder showed up the day of the event, but only to trash it with the Seaway News printing that only 30 showed up and with their reporter not interviewing the organizer, myself. Chuck Charlebois showed up and I allowed him to walk in the lead and issue a speech at City Hall. This is called blowing and sucking; compared to the more popular sucking and blowing.
Again, the reflection to the Feds showed weakness of our community and created no real pressure on them. It’s the exact opposite of what you’d want if you truly wanted to serve the public who clearly didn’t want the tanks. If 1,000 people showed up a total different response from them.
If our mayor and council showed leadership and had informed the public before the tanks were constructed in a clear and honest fashion would they be in the ground now? I think not.
Should Economic Development and possibly any elected officials that knew about the tanks be held responsible? Well if I were as outraged as some of council stated that they were I sure as heck would have asked the right questions to the mayor in open council. To date none of them has.
Now we are seeing some of the newbies who will be running for council making noise about the tanks. People like Guy St. Jean who was not present at the rally and for example has not signed our petition simply asking the government to stop the tanks. Late to the party? Political opportunist? The man lives across the street from the tanks in the Cotton Mill Condos for goodness sake! Where was he all this time?
Honestly the public has not shown any real opposition to these tanks. For a city of over 45,000 to muster less than 1,000 signatures shows the bad guys that time will heal all noise.
The end result most likely will be trucks running up and down McConnell or Montreal Road, and eventually a much larger bill for our infrastructure.
Leadership is critical in crisis like these. Lack of leadership never gets results unless of course in this case the goal was simply for the mayor and council to get the tanks through for some old friends in an election year?
And without strong community leadership and awareness to combat such a scenario you end up with a divided waterfront and chem tanks next to a little league ball park.
But then again that ball park itself has a dirty history with fill from it sent to Big Ben without proper permission from the Ministry of the Environment as alleged in documents in possession of CFN.
The only way to change a culture and build a community is to have change. Like they say;
You get the government you deserve.