Chris Stockwell's Valentine's gift: A slap in the face for citizens
Environment Minister overturns Review Tribunal's decision on Tay River
OTTAWA, Feb. 14 /CNW/ - Ontario Environment Minister Chris Stockwell's Valentine's day gift this year to OMYA (Canada) Inc., a large Swiss based mining company, is a million gallons of water a day from the Tay River. But the approval, which reverses the conclusions of two independent public inquiries, will certainly come as a slap in the face to Perth's citizens.
Late this afternoon (Friday), Minister Stockwell released a 30-page decision overturning a decision by the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT),which denied OMYA the approval it had been given to take 4.5 million litres a day from the Tay River. The Tribunal was confirming an earlier decision by another environmental tribunal that not enough was known about the environmental impacts of such large water takings to justify such a permit.
Several months ago, the Ottawa Citizen reported that OMYA was 'declaring war on Ontario' and was threatening to leave the province because it wasn't being given a permit to take all the water it wanted from the Tay River. "Minister Stockwell has just ran up the white flag," said Guy Caron,spokesperson for The Council of Canadians. "The Minister has clearly sent a message to the business community, that job blackmail and threats to investment still work in Ontario, whatever the environmental cost," he added.
Steven Shrybman, a lawyer who represented the Council of Canadians during the hearing described the decision as a serious set back for public hearing process in Ontario. "The Minister's decision is a mortal blow to the integrity
of the Environmental Bill of Rights - which gives citizens the right to participate in important environmental decisions." "Mr. Stockwell's decision moves environmental decision making into the back room where companies negotiate with politicians and public officials, free from any public scrutiny" he added.
The Council of Canadians worked closely with the citizens of Perth to oppose the company's application and called several expert witnesses to oppose granting the permit that OMYA was seeking. A key witness for the Council was Gordon Miller, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, who was sharply critical of the failure of the Minister's officials to adopt an system for granting water taking permits.
This is the first time that the Conservative government has been put to the test since the Walkerton Inquiry which called for comprehensive watershed assessment before Ministry approvals are given. "It is clear from Mr. Stockwell's decision that this government has learned nothing from its past mistakes," concluded Caron.
For further information: Steven Shrybman, Lawyer, (613) 233-4837;
Guy Caron, Media Officer - Council of Canadians, (613) 233-4487 ext. 234 or
(613) 795-8685 (cell.)
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